What Is An Emergency?



This is my “secretary”, Childish Gambino. He hangs on the door of my office, and I use him to tell students where I am. I have interchangeable speech bubbles saying things like “I’m in a meeting,” or “I’m at lunch”. Today, when working on an assessment project that required some extra concentration and classical music, I put up a speech bubble that stated the following:

“Working on something...in the zone. If it’s not an urgent matter, can you check back with me in a bit?”

I was interrupted no fewer than four times by students who either needed to pick up mail, or get commuter stickers (both things that they have been notified about for seven consecutive weeks).

Similarly, I was emailed several times during our cancellation of classes for Hurricane Sandy, asking if meetings I had scheduled with students were still on even though classes were suspended and administrative offices were closed.

How do you speak to students about defining an “urgent” or “emergency” situation? To me, a sticker on your ID that you should have had literal months ago doesn’t constitute an emergency. But in a world where the students we work with have grown up having to wait at most 2 minutes for a download (unless something’s wrong or not working), their idea of an emergency might be a little bit different. Even in the face of an actual emergency, one in the form of a superstorm, some students still have trouble making a distinction. One way that I’ve defined an emergency for students is in the form of risk management training. In each scenario given, I strive to outline at what point a staff member should intervene, and at what point the situation is something they can handle without professional intervention. In that regard, they know that anything that we haven’t covered in emergency training, or isn’t on that same level of immediacy, doesn’t require such urgent action.

Do you indulge your students in treating the non-urgent as urgent? How do you draw the line between what is an emergency, and what can wait?

 Amma Marfo
@ammamarfo 

Student Affairs - the First Years

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