Responding to Critical Incidents
On occasion, incidents may occur within our campus community that quickly circulate to a wider audience through social media or other channels. Students who have heard about critical events but were not themselves involved firsthand may come to instructors—faculty members, GSIs, Teaching Assistants—with concerns and questions about these events.
Instructors have expressed concerns about how to respond, given that they may not have sufficient information about the event, they may be unable to comment until the campus has completed its own investigation, or they may simply feel hesitant to comment about something they have only heard about second- or third-hand. This resource is designed to help you communicate compassionately while setting clear boundaries in the event that a student approaches you for conversation or comment.
Examples of such incidents might include those involving allegations of racism, sexual violence, unauthorized use of force by law enforcement, or harassment based on immigration status. Such events can have a significant emotional impact even on students who were not direct participants/witnesses. We recognize, too, that faculty, staff, and graduate students have different levels of comfort around the emotionally charged conversations that can ensue. We also recognize that faculty, staff, and graduate students may themselves feel personally impacted by the event in question.
This document provides some sample language for responding to student concerns. We encourage you to:
- Acknowledge the student’s emotions and concerns
- Connect with the student by letting them know that you care
- Clarify expectations by stating what you can and cannot do, and
- Refer the student to appropriate support resources (see possible resources below)
We also recommend that you follow up with the student a day or two after the exchange in person or by email to make sure they have found the resources they need and to let them know that you remain concerned about their well-being.
Things you might say:
|Acknowledge||I can see that this is something that has affected you deeply and is having a real impact on you.|
|Connect||I appreciate the trust you are putting in me. I care about your feelings and experiences. Where appropriate:|
I want you to know that I stand against racism / racialized violence / sexual violence / abuse of power / harassment / hate.
|Clarify||At this point, I don’t have access to the information I need to feel comfortable having a conversation about what happened. Or, where appropriate:|
Unfortunately, even though I understand that information is circulating, I’m bound to respect confidentiality due to the sensitive nature of these events.
|Refer||In the meantime, I can connect you with someone you can talk to in confidence about what you’re experiencing. We have staff here on campus who have the expertise and knowledge to help you navigate this. Would you like me to help you find the right resource?|
Resource Centers | Website
Including: African American Resource and Cultural Center, American Indian Resource Center, Asian American/Pacific Islander Resource Center, Chicanx/Latinx Resource Center (El Centro). The Cantú Queer Center, and the Women’s Center
For contact information for all resource centers, see here.
CAPS — Counseling and Psychological Services | Website
(831) 459-2628 (also available for after-hours crisis support)
SHOP — Student Health Outreach and Support | Website
Provides information on sexual health and addiction
Campus Mobile Crisis Team | Website
Crisis response services
831-502-9988 (Wednesday–Saturday, 2:00 PM – 12 midnight)
Behavioral Intervention Team | Website
Response team for evaluating incidents of potential or actual workplace violence
Student Health Center (non-emergency medical care) | Website
Appointments: (831) 459-2500
24/7 Nurse advice line: (831) 459-2591
24 Hour Suicide Prevention Service: (831) 458-5300 or (877) 663-5433
(Reminder: if you believe a student is an immediate danger to themselves, call 911)