So – this past weekend, some of you may know that we here at Fresno State lost a student due to alcohol. For me, this is not the first time we have lost a resident in such a manner. 12 years ago, while at Chico State, one of my residents died in October due to alcohol poisoning. The stories are eerily similar. Students went to a fraternity party. Students drank an extraordinary amount of alcohol. Students passed out and were placed in a “room” to sober up. Students were next seen basically dead. Many of you in Res Life have experienced similar situations. Adrian Heideman. Philip Dhanens. I am sure you know of other names. And there are times like this where it is easy to be discouraged. But I was ALSO reminded of something else via this blog. A reader pointed out in my post on the daredevil that she enjoyed the concept of “hope.” And was excited about joining the “League of Extraordinary Hope Builders.” This was the reminder I needed that even in times like this, where people have lost hope, our job is to provide that hope. Whether it is to our staff dealing with this, the friends of the person in question, the roommates and suitemates, our job is to build hope. And although sometimes hope is hard to come by, we have to remember that ultimately, that is what we do.
Whether it is checking in on staff with a simple “how are you doing?” at random. Or “is there anything you need?” Or just coming into work on a labor day weekend to “be there” when you staff finds out what is happening, these things matter. And reminding staff, they have what it takes to deal with these things is incredibly helpful.
A staff member asked a question “what do I do if a student comes to me about the situation?” We started going through different scenarios and then we just reminded them – “remember you basic counseling skills.” Active listening, empathy, silence, open ended questions, connecting them to resources, etc. You already know what to do – just because a student has passed away, doesn’t change the basics. “And what if the media shows up?” Remember our media protocols that we went over in training. Ask them if they have contacted University Communications. Ask them for a name. Contact the RD on-call. You’ve got this! There is hope, staff! It was a great reminder that although we never directly talked about a student passing away in our training, we’ve covered the basics to get you through. Hope. You’ve got this. We’re here to help. Sometimes, that is really all you can do. Because I have no magic wand to take the pain away from losing a resident. I’ve got no magic words that will help you grieve. All I can say is “I’ll walk with you through this.” Or “we’ll get through this as a team” or “we believe in you.” All I can offer is hope. So – as your year (and journey) begins, welcome to the “League of Extraordinary Hope Builders!” Won’t you please let us know who you are?