AMP Plus Politics

Bowen dean arranges counseling for law students ‘who feel upset’ about Trump victory

President Clinton and William H. Bowen (above) after the ceremony in April 2000 at which the law school was renamed for Mr. Bowen. (AP file photo by Mike Wintroath)

The original AMP report follows this update.

Update: LITTLE ROCK (November 17, 2016) ~ Bowen law school Dean Michael Schwartz continues to refuse to answer the most pertinent question concerning his offer of counseling to law students who felt “upset” at the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.

State Representative Laurie Rushing is the most recent inquisitor who has failed to elicit an answer to the question: Would you have offered counseling if Hillary Clinton had won the election?

Laurie Rushing

Laurie Rushing

Mrs. Rushing recently threatened to “take a knee” when it comes to funding Razorback women’s basketball after six of the players took a knee during the national anthem.

After she read the email that Mr. Schwartz sent to the student body on Monday, Mrs. Rushing sent him three questions by email:

1.) Has this service been offered in the past for election results?

2.) Did the University pay for these services and were any extra counselors called in?

3.) Would this service [have] been offered if the outcome had been different in the election?

Dean Schwartz did not respond directly. Instead, Joni Lee, UALR’s chief government relations officer, responded by email on the dean’s behalf on Thursday. (Ms. Lee said she originally sent the email on Tuesday and apologized for the delay in responding.)

Rep. Rushing ~

Dean Schwartz asked that I contact you with information about the counseling offered at the law school yesterday.  Several faculty of the school had made the dean aware that some students in their classes appeared anxious or concerned about potential impacts from the election.  The dean contacted the Counseling Services department on the main UALR campus to request that they make counselors available at the law school for any students potentially needing assistance.

The law school does not have a counselor on-site and law students typically access the main campus office when they need such help.  In the past, there have been times when there may be a heightened need at the law school (test time, etc.) that the administration has requested the same type of service so that the law school students have direct access to the service.

One (1) counselor from the Counseling Services office came to the law school yesterday afternoon to meet with students as needed. There were no additional counselors hired to take care of this need.  The service offered at the law school yesterday was part of the regular services provided to all UALR students; there was no additional cost for the sessions offered yesterday.

Ms. Lee then supplied the prepared media response which has been his only public response to questions.

 

The original AMP story:

LITTLE ROCK (November 15, 2016) ~ The dean of the Bowen law school, who says 2016 was the “most disturbing election season”  of his lifetime, was so concerned about students “who feel upset” about the election of Donald Trump that he arranged for special counseling on campus on Monday.

Dean Michael Schwartz

Dean Michael Schwartz

“I know many of you were very upset by the results of the election,” Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz wrote in an email to the students of the William H. Bowen School of Law, “and, of course, I know many of you were pleased. This election season was the most upsetting, most painful, most disturbing election season of my lifetime.”

For those who shared his agony, Mike ~ as the dean signed the email ~ offered a link to a CNN story about navigating life after the election.

He found the story helpful, he said, in considering how “to deal with the future (and with family, if, like me, you have a relative whose politics you abhor).”

Mike didn’t mention which of his relatives’ politics he abhors.

In an interview with Caleb Taylor of the Arkansas Project,

Robert Steinbuch, a law professor at Bowen and a board member of Advance Arkansas, said that in his more than ten years at the school, the only time he can recall an offer of counseling was in the days after a student had committed suicide, which was necessary.

“If you tell people every time they lose they’re entitled to counseling, you elevate the perceived level of wrong beyond what it is,” he said. “Most assuredly, Democrats are disappointed a Republican won. I recall when the Democratic Party won the presidency twice each of the previous two elections. I knew plenty of people who were disappointed at that time, but I didn’t know anybody that needed grief counseling. I think when we tell people that they need some form of grief counseling we are normalizing hysteria and suggesting there’s something immoral or wrong about our democratic process.”

Dan Greenberg’s (Bowen class of 2006) unmuted and unequivocal opinion is that the dean’s idea “infantilizes” adults and was “inappropriate and ham-handed” for a taxpayer-supported institution.

Dan Greenberg

Dan Greenberg

“I think it’s an embarrassing misstep by law-school administration,” Mr. Greenberg said Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Greenberg is a 2006 graduate of the school and president of Advance Arkansas, which produces Arkansas Project.

“One of the alarming things about this is that I fear it is a sign of the infantilization of law students,” he said. “I think we ought to think better of law students than to think they need counseling after an election.

“Someone you don’t like getting elected to office, if that’s a catastrophe that needs counseling, then every day of everyone’s life requires counseling.

“It’s an election. It’s not 9/11. If at some level we don’t have a lot of people who can appreciate that, we are in trouble.”

The Bowen school wasn’t alone in providing post-election stress-relief for students. “A dorm at the University of Pennsylvania on Wednesday hosted a post-election ‘Breathing Space’ for students stressed out by election results that included cuddling with cats and a puppy, coloring and crafting, and snacks such as tea and chocolate,” The College Fix reported.

“ ‘There were actual cats and a puppy there,’ Penn student Daniel Tancredi told The College Fix via email. ‘There were sheets of paper available with black and white printed designs on them for students to color in. Essentially, they looked like pages from a coloring book that were printed from a computer. They all had positive feel-good messages on them. Students colored them in with colored pencils.”

The University of Michigan law school advertised Crayola therapy but apparently scrubbed the event after it drew national attention, according to The College Fix.

Heat Street, The Daily Caller, and Fox News also published stories about the University of Michigan.

AMP left a voice-mail message for Mr. Schwartz with three questions, including: “Would you have offered counseling if Hillary Clinton had prevailed?”

The dean ignored the question and responded through Allen Hicks of the UALR Office of Communications and Marketing, who provided a prepared statement from the dean:

This is Dean Schwartz’s entire email:

From: Michael Hunter Schwartz <mhschwartz@ualr.edu>
Date: Mon, Nov 14, 2016 at 9:30 AM
Subject: The Election and Civil and Respectful Discourse

Good morning.

I write you this morning to share our support for each of you. I know many of you were very upset by the results of the election, and, of course, I know many of you were pleased. This election season was the most upsetting, most painful, most disturbing election season of my lifetime. And, as you know, I am old. I found the article at this link, http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/09/health/how-to-navigate-post-election-trnd/index.html, to be a helpful tool for thinking about how to deal with the future (and with family, if, like me, you have a relative whose politics you abhor).

For those of you who feel upset, we have arranged extra on-campus counseling services today. We will be offering 30-minute appointments between 2:30-6:00pm. If students do not sign up for all appointment times and/or do not use all of their allotted 30 minutes, walk-in appointments may be available on a first come, first served basis. Counseling will be located in room 423 – the office next to the Faculty Library on the 4th floor. If there are no more appointment times available and you wish to speak with a counselor, please sign up for a counseling appointment here.

No matter how you are feeling, the most important thing for you is to focus on your studies. If your goal, in attending law school, is to make a difference in your community, the first step has to be getting through law school and passing the bar. Please do not lose sight of that goal.

Most of all, I want every member of our community to feel welcome and supported here. Our diversity is a strength and a goal that we need to cultivate in every way we can. Everyone deserves a safe, supportive, collegial learning environment. In fact, the research shows that learning from and with those who are different from us makes us smarter, more thoughtful, more tolerant, and happier. Please reach out to your peers and let them know they are valued. And, if you witness someone being mistreated because of his or her politics, religious beliefs, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender, please do not sit silently by. Here is a link to a helpful guide to dealing with harassment: http://www.themarysue.com/bystanders-harassment-guide/.

This spring, the law school’s Committee on Diversity and Excellence will host a Forum on Difference to facilitate discussions with our student leaders on how to ensure that Bowen is a welcoming and nurturing environment for all our students. We hosted multiple such events last academic year.  If you have a concern that you would like to raise for possible discussion at the next forum, please contact any member of the committee. Committee members are Dean Jessie Burchfield, Dean Rejena Grotjohn, Professor Ken Gallant, and Professor Sherrie Norwood.

I thank you for your attention in reading this message.

Warm regards,

~Mike
Michael Hunter Schwartz | Dean and Professor of Law
UALR William H. Bowen School of Law

 

12 Comments

  • Here are the stats on mental health in law school:

    Depression among law students is 8-9% prior to matriculation, 27% after one semester, 34% after 2 semesters, and 40% after 3 years.

    Stress among law students is 96%, compared to 70% in med students and 43% in graduate students.

    Entering law school, law students have a psychological profile similar to that of the general public. After law school, 20-40% have a psychological dysfunction.

    Law school is already a stressful situation. Add to that, people are going into finals while being subject to hate crimes and worried that their family/friends may loose their rights and/or deported certainly doesn’t help the situation.

    People deal with stress in different ways and unless you are a mental health expert, it’s not your place to comment on the merits of those who seek help.

    This reporter and professor irresponsibly disparage people seeking mental health services and contribute to the stigma around mental health issues. Schools should be encouraged to provide mental health services to those who ask for it – as happened here.

    Lawyers rank 5th in incidence of suicide by occupation. Lives depend on these services.

  • Professor Steinbuch’s recollection about on-site counseling is incorrect. UALR Health Services, in an effort to provide services to law school on the law school campus, actually had a designated office and hours during the time I was there.

    I think the article misses the point. If students are upset and worried what impact the election will have on their (and their family’s) healthcare, legal status based on race or sexual preference, and finances, those are legitimate worries. Even more troubling is the idea that a third party gets to decide which fears warrant counseling and those that do not.

    You can disagree with the language of the email but the intent was to inform students of help available.

    • Patti certainly worked for the state far longer than me. I’ve only been at Bowen for about a decade. I don’t recall a permanent counseling station at the law school during that time. In fact, Patti herself sent an email back in 2014 announcing “Counselors from UALR and EAP will be on our campus today from 11:00 – 2:00 in Room 332 in the library.” So, obviously, no such permanent counseling office existed for some time. I can’t speak to what may have existed over a decade ago.

      • Did you neglect to read the statistics about law students and mental health? I commend Dean Schwartz for appropriately responding to reports that students were anxious about the feared meaning and consequences for themselves and families as a result of the election results. I imagine it may be hard for a white male, such as yourself, to recognize and understand their fears.

    • Patti Bell: the accusations in your post are, to put it bluntly, bizarre. There is *nobody* who has suggested that any student’s worries are not legitimate. There is *nobody* who has floated the idea that a third party gets to decide which worries warrant counseling (except, perhaps, the law school’s dean). You have missed the fundamental objection to Schwartz’s conduct: namely, if Schwartz is going to announce that counseling is available just after Donald Trump gets elected, but stay silent about counseling at all other times, there is legitimate concern that Schwartz is alleging that a presidential election is a uniquely trauma-inducing event. Schwartz could easily have sent out an email that says “there is help available”; there was no administrative need to link it to Trump, but for him there was clearly a great political need. It is almost as if you didn’t read the article that you “responded” to.

      • It seems you missed the whole point of Dean Schwartz’s email. He was specifically responding to reports of student angst and fear about the perceived CONSEQUENCES of the election results. AS a diverse student body, the law students are reasonable to question their future health care, and family status. Additionally, the Law Student stats for mental health issues discussed above, justify his response to reports of student’s struggling (more than the usual). this would have also been an appropriate response if that level of angst was reported for a Clinton win. He encourage them to use their angst to focus on academic performance to allow them to use their talents to have an impact using the laws of the USA! Pretty genius way to inspire his students!

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