Five years ago, in response to the shooting at the Virginia Tech college campus in 2007, Emporia State created the CARE Team. Shanti Ramcharan, director of disability service and chair of the team, said CARE stands for consultation, assessment, referral and education.
The CARE Team is made up of a committee of four faculty members and is a resource where students, faculty and staff members can report “students of concern,” which can mean anything from students experiencing stress, depression, engaging in risky behaviors or who may even have developed mental illnesses.
“(College students are at) the traditional age when certain kinds of disorders may start to commonly appear,” said Jacqueline Schmidt, director of Student Wellness. “For instance, say we have someone who is showing signs of having hallucinations and illusions, and schizophrenia is the disorder that causes that. There’s really good help out there and if we can catch it early, (then) we can get that person in some kind of treatment and medication and prevent those illusions and hallucinations from taking over their lives.”
According to the team’s website, their goal is to offer “assistance to students in distress through consultation with concerned faculty, staff, and students; consistent communication between departments, and referral to campus and off-campus resources.” Some of the warning risks of a “student of concern” could include a change in behavior, class attendance, social group, hygiene and comments in casual conversation and Facebook posts or homework assignments that are out of character, Ramcharan said.
“One of the recommendations that came out of the Virginia Tech tragedy was that campuses needed to keep each other informed a little bit better, or have a central place or group that could be communicated with so that they could become aware of problem behaviors, or something that may be going on with a student of concern,” Schmidt said. “There were several departments (at Virginia Tech) that knew that (the student responsible for the shootings) was behaving strangely, and they didn’t know it was happening in more than one place.”
According to an article by The New York Times, James Holmes, the man who opened fire during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., sent a text message to a friend weeks before the incident. In the message, he told the friend to stay away because he was “bad news.” Also, according to an article by CBS News, Holmes left the university he was attending in June after flunking his year-end final and making threats to a professor.
“I think that the Aurora shooting helped to open the eyes of some of the staff and some of the students because (if) the shooter’s behavior had changed and if someone would have spoken up about it, they could have helped save lives,” said Doricka Menefee, junior secondary English education major.
Ramcharan also said having the CARE Team allows for an early intervention if a student is showing signs of struggling, whether it is socially, academically or in other ways.
“A lot of times we get reports that seem pretty minor, but we start to see a bigger picture,” Ramcharan said.
In 1988, an Emporia State international graduate student, Cheun-Phon Ji, opened fire at Calvary Baptist Church in Emporia, according to an article by The Emporia Gazette. Ji ended up killing one and sending four others to the hospital. He is currently serving a life sentence in jail for his crime.
“I think students should always be aware of and take precautions of their personal safety, whether that’s just being careful about your personal safety when you’re at a friend’s house or at a party or out just having fun,” Ramcharan said.
Schmidt said the CARE Team has various strategies for getting in contact with a student that is “not weird or threatening to them,” such as asking a professor or a Resident Assistant to check up on him or her.
“It just provides a way to try to help students from slipping through the cracks,” Schmidt said.
Students, faculty and staff can file a report on the CARE Team’s page on ESU’s website. ESU does not accept anonymous reports, and once the form is received, a member of the CARE Team or Student Advising Center will review the information and take appropriate action. In cases of emergency, contact ESU Police and Safety at 620-341-5337.