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UNC faculty often untrained on student mental health

Though conversation surrounding sexual assault and mental illness at UNC has increased during the last year, there is still no required training on the subjects for faculty and staff members.

But University faculty and administrators have begun discussing ways of implementing sexual assault training into their schedules through an online program.

Title IX Compliance Coordinator Howard Kallem said interpersonal violence prevention programs like One Act and Helping Advocates for Violence Ending Now (HAVEN) were created specifically with students in mind, rather than faculty.

Faculty receive similar information in other ways, Kallem said.

“Over the past few years, training has been provided on sexual harassment and sexual assault to a number of faculty — defining harassment and assault, explaining how the University responds and giving them information on resources and reporting options,” he said in an email.

Kallem said additional training for faculty and staff is being developed through the Equal Opportunity and Americans with Disabilities Act Office.

“The training will likely begin with an online module to be taken by all faculty and staff, followed by various in-person training opportunities,” he said.

“Once the online training has been rolled out and after the new discrimination and harassment policy and procedures have been finalized, HAVEN training may be reopened to faculty and staff.

“I do think that all faculty should participate in training on sexual harassment, including sexual violence.”

Senior Andrea Pino, an activist for sexual assault awareness on campus, said she thinks the lack of training is problematic.

“The main people that students talk to is RAs, advisers and professors,” she said. “If they aren’t trained, then where do students go?”

Pino said UNC is focusing too much on compliance with Title IX and not enough on the issue at hand.

“Focusing on things like complaints being filed and underreporting is very much scapegoating the real issue, which is lack of counseling, the lack of support and the lack of training,” she said.

Senior Viviana Bonilla-López, co-founder and co-chairwoman of Rethink: Psychiatric Illness, said the group is working on a shorter training session on mental illness targeted at faculty.

“We understand that faculty’s time is limited, and we wanted to do something specifically for them,” she said.

Bonilla-López said about 341 people have taken advantage of Rethink’s training sessions.

“(The training) covers what is stigma, what are mental illnesses, how to be a supportive friend and peer and how to access resources,” she said.

Faculty chairwoman and philosophy professor Jan Boxill said although there is no required training, the philosophy department faculty has begun a conversation about student mental health and sexual assault.

“We did have a discussion in our faculty meeting about language and not making light of issues,” she said. “We are basically the first responders, and we see students all the time.”

Boxill said the faculty gets about three emails a semester from academic support services, and faculty in the philosophy department are given brochures on how to approach a student who might need help.

“(The emails) come especially at the beginning of the semester and near finals,” she said. “I think people have availed themselves of the information.”

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Philosophy chairman Marc Lange said before philosophy graduate students become teaching assistants, they take part in an orientation and spend time talking about mental health issues.

“We go through some of the warning signs and examples of episodes that have happened in the past so graduate students know what to look for,” he said. “They’re not supposed to be off on their own making it up as they go.”

Lange said it is important for people to think about both sexual assault and mental health proactively.

“Faculty have to be aware that these are issues at our University and other universities, and be attentive to whatever information comes their way about any events that are taking place,” he said.

“It’s everybody’s job to be aware of these problems and take action if action is warranted.”