Helping Students Concerned about the Conflict in Iraq and Terrorism:
A Guide for Faculty and Staff at Binghamton University
With the on-going conflicts in Iraq and the threat of terrorism here, a sense of helplessness, anger, and fear is easily cultivated. Different people react and cope in vastly different ways. A student's natural temperament, social support, prior life experiences, and ways of coping contribute to individually specific reactions. Even when students do not express verbal concern, they may experience strong internal reactions. In classes and elsewhere faculty and staff are likely to see students in need of assistance. Anticipating potential reactions, considering possible interventions, and knowing the resources available will help the campus community to work effectively with these students.
- Fear for the safety of family or friends
- Preoccupation with terrorist incidents and on-going conflicts
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating on studying
- Anxiety about arguments with those with strong opposing views
- Increased hostility toward or fear of foreigners
- Watching television news coverage excessively
- Increased reactivity to smaller issues and events
- Increased moodness, anxiety, anger, and/or insomnia
- Strained relationships with friends and family; increased isolation or irritability
- Increased use of alcohol and drugs
What concerned faculty and staff can do to help:
- Students whose families live in the New York metropolitan area, and those from others major metropolitan areas, may be especially likely to react strongly to the threat of terrorist activity. They may need to stay in contact with family.
- It is usually beneficial for people to continue with their usual routines as much as possible. Encourage students to keep up with assignments, classes, and other activities. Even so, be aware that some students might need some time away.
- Do not feel pressured to lead a class discussion on terrorism or the war, especially if it does not pertain to the course material, or your own feelings might interfere.
- If you discuss course topics directly or indirectly related to terrorism or the war, keep in mind that some students may react strongly, some have family in the Middle East, and some have friends and family in the military. Try to be sensitive in how you introduce such topics, and be tolerant if some students need to take a break during class. Do not permit ridicule or disrespect of anyone's viewpoint.
- Listen. Allow students who confide in you individually to share their experience. Expect conflicting feelings that are not "rational." Encourage students to confide in friends or family who can be supportive.
- If students express hostility toward individuals from specific countries, help them appreciate the distinction between the country's leaders and its innocent population. Increased divisiveness will not ultimately help students feel safer.
- Be aware that strong reactions may come from many sources, including previous experiences of trauma. What seems like an unreasonable response to an observer may be perfectly understandable in the context of the responding person's life.
- Keep in mind that many students see their teachers as authority figures, and some as parental figures, and so may depend upon you to remain calm and hopeful. For these students, hearing "the grownups" express fear or anger can be disconcerting.
- If some students' reactions seem particularly strong, or if the reactions continue over time, you can refer the student to a professional:
- The University Counseling Center provides free, confidential counseling for students.
- High Hopes hotline is available 24 hours/seven days per week at 777-4357 or 777-3784.
- Binghamton University Police are available 24 hours/seven days per week at 911 or for non-emergencies at 777-2393.
- International Student and Scholar Services, NAR-GI - 777-2510 - for information about international events, travel, and safety issues for international students and visitors.
- Employee Assistance Program - for faculty and staff members. Health Services Infirmary IN-115 at 777-6655.
- Religious Organizations Advisors, UU218 - 777-2262
o Baptist Campus Ministry - 729-5189
o Brothers and Sisters in Christ - 648-7322
o Campus Bible Fellowship - 775-2107
o Catholic Students/Newman Association - 798-7202
o Chabad House Jewish Student Center - 797-0015
o InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Korean American Baptists - 729-6672
The following resources provide relevant information:
* American Psychological Association:
* National Mental Health Association:
Elizabeth Droz, Ph.D., Director, University Counseling Center
Adapted from materials by Dr. Karen Lese, U. San Diego, 2003