Program to address ‘students of concern’ may help retention

UK is making positive strides to monitor students who could be at risk of academic problems because of personal situations.

The Students of Concern team was formed in cooperation with seven UK departments in March. The group meets every other week to discuss reports from faculty, students, parents or others in the UK community who have concerns about a student. The team could then look into the student’s background to see if they have been attending class or are showing other signs of a personal problem. The group then asks students to come in for a meeting if the follow-up information raises concern, the Kernel reported Friday.

Retention has always been a problem and priority to improve for UK. The graduation rate for the 2001 class was 61.1 percent and the freshman-to-sophomore retention rate for the 2006 class was 76.4 percent, according to the UK Office of Institutional Research.

The university taking a proactive interest in students who might be having a rough time in college can only help these rates, benefiting the students and UK as a result.

But the university is also dealing with personal information when evaluating these students-at-risk, and ensuring privacy should be as high a priority as helping these students.

The Students of Concern team will be keeping the names and information of particular students on file, the Kernel article said. Although this information will be kept confidential, it still contains sensitive information that could be linked to a very personal problem or a very sensitive time. Collection and management of such information should be taken with the utmost seriousness.

The only way this program can work is if students feel comfortable opening up about personal problems to the administrators and feel secure in sharing private information. Proper management of confidential records is essential in these situations.

This team was not created in response to campus tragedies like the Virginia Tech shooting, but monitoring students with the potential of acting violently is a benefit of the group, said Maj. Joe Monroe, interim chief of UK police and team member.

Still, like the management of confidential information, the team should take care not to throw premature accusations of danger on students. And, obviously, as members of the team mentioned in the article, students who are more eccentric should not be labeled a threat before any real risk is established.