The Cost of Inaction: Student Defense and Emotional Wellbeing

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It’s no secret that college can be a particularly challenging emotional and psychological time for young adults, presenting new and unexpected difficulties. They are adjusting to the demands of college life, and all the social and academic pressures that come with it can be overwhelming for even the most high-achieving students. Add the dislocation and instability brought by the covid-19 pandemic, and students face a period in their lives that is intimidating and draining in ways many are not prepared to handle—a perfect storm of conditions with the potential to threaten their well-being and success.

The resulting effects on students’ emotional and mental wellness are hard to ignore. A recent study by the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, The College Mental Health Crisis: A Call for Cultural Change, found that college students face unprecedented emotional and mental health disruptions.

  • 73% of students experience some sort of mental health crisis during college
  • Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance use are associated with lower GPA and a higher probability of dropping out of college
  • More than 80% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year, and 45% have felt things were hopeless
  • Almost half of college students had a psychiatric disorder in the past year
  • 20% of female students report sexual assault or threatened sexual assault, according to the Center for Disease Control

Disciplinary actions and misconduct charges can cripple young people in ways they never anticipated, with high costs to their emotional stability and academic achievement. The already precarious educational environment students face means that allegations and sanctions against them can negatively affect their academic prospects and emotional composure, leading to personal and academic crises.

Why should students fight disciplinary charges?

The results of not fighting academic and disciplinary charges can be devastating. We see the outcomes every day:

  • A drama major facing Title IX charges who suffers a mental breakdown and is forced to withdraw from school
  • A Ph.D. candidate overwhelmed with anxiety after allegations of falsifying data which stands to lose six years of hard work
  • A high school senior whose fight with another student led to a one-year suspension and a mental health slide that made returning to school impossible
  • An economics major with charges of plagiarism that caused him a crisis of faith in himself, making him question his personal worth and academic potential

When students face allegations of misconduct—with the potential for academic failure, suspension, or dismissal—ignoring these charges comes with dire emotional and educational costs. In a climate when students are already facing emotional strains, it often doesn’t take much to undermine a student’s already shaky sense of stability and throw them into a personal and academic crisis. This is particularly the case with students already struggling with mental health concerns. Whether it’s Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, depression, or a mood disorder, students are in a precarious position, and not fighting allegations against them can lead to much worse consequences than just the punishments they are facing. It can lead to emotional breakdowns that can take months, if not years, to recover from, delaying or entirely preventing them from completing their degree.

Education data initiative report on college dropout

Even without the stress of academic or disciplinary sanctions, students face daunting obstacles to graduation. The Education Data Initiative found alarming information on recent college dropout rates.

  • 32.9% of undergraduates do not complete their degree program
  • First-time undergraduate freshmen have a 12-month dropout rate of 24.1%
  • College dropouts make an average of 32.6% less income than bachelor’s degree holders and are 19.6% more likely to be unemployed than any degree holder
  • 28% of the students dropout of college due to academic disqualification

In this fragile environment, the price of inaction to academic and disciplinary charges can throw a student’s mental and emotional well-being into a state of emergency.

How to protect your emotional well-being?

K Altman Law fights hard to ensure students get a fair hearing for their concerns and get the best possible results. But we are aware that the strain on students comes from more than just the punishments they face. It also comes from intense stress throughout the process of challenging allegations against them. When a student is charged with violating codes of conduct or academic requirements, it takes a toll on their confidence, self-image, sense of worth and potential, and motivation, with unforeseen and often lasting mental and emotional consequences.

The reality is that students today are under unprecedented social, emotional, and academic pressures, and the cost of not fighting academic and disciplinary charges can be critically damaging to their present well-being and educational and professional futures.

But young people don’t have to face these challenges alone. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder guiding students every step of the way through a process that can be confusing, intimidating, and overwhelming, and we get the best possible outcomes that protect their education, emotional wellness, and professional prospects. Having an experienced advocate and advisor in a student’s corner during this crucial period can be the key to protecting their future.

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