Bioethics Blogs

Supporting Your Students in These Troubling Times

By Mark Kuczewski

University and college administrations have shown laudable leadership since the election in offering support to their students who feel under threat.  The strongest and most explicit statements have been in regard to undocumented students who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  As the almost 800,000 persons of DACA status could be sent back “into the shadows” by the next president, numerous universities have made statements elaborating the steps they will take to protect these students and supply them with legal and social support services. [1,2]

Furthermore, many other students including persons of color and students from the Muslim and Jewish faith traditions also are encountering increased interpersonal hostility and they fear potential discriminatory policies such as the rumored “Muslim registry.”  As a result, many universities and colleges have done a variety of things to support them including offering discussion forums and creating “safe spaces” where students can express their concerns without debate.  But many educators wish to know what they personally can do to help.  Let me offer a few suggestions…

First, continue to speak the truth about fairness and social justice, especially in terms of your discipline and the experience of you and your students.  – Many opinion leaders are blaming “identity politics” for the alienation of rural whites and their embrace of intolerance.  As a result, some academics are tempted to de-emphasize race and other identities in their teaching and scholarship.  But as academics, our job is to propagate truth and “color blind” scholarship is, at best, a half-truth.  For instance, racial and ethnic disparities in health care are well documented and will not disappear because they are politically unfashionable.  The experiences of people of color are also data and deserve respect.  I once heard an African-American medical student counsel peers to drape their white coats over their cars’ headrests as “it helps when the police pull you over.”  It made clear to me that our African-American and Euro-American students exit our campus onto the same street but inhabit different worlds with different experiences and stressors.  Furthermore, the recent campaign and election seems to have led to increased numbers of overt expressions of hostility toward people of color.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.