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Letter to the Editor

I’m writing in response to the Oracle’s editorial on Aug. 27, which said that Students of Concern Assistance Team (SOCAT) “takes violence prevention too far.”

I fully agree with the Oracle’s assertion that there is not a link between mental illness and violence. As a clinical psychologist myself, I have worked throughout my career to reduce the stigma of mental illness and help those suffering from psychiatric disorders.

SOCAT is being developed to help distressed students get the support and assistance they need to be successful. However, in very rare instances, a student’s behavior might be so troubling that they will be required to seek an evaluation or withdraw from school.

I assure you that USF will not be “forcing innocent people out of school.” There is not a question of innocence or guilt here. We may, on occasion, ask that a distressed student take a leave of absence until they can get the help necessary to allow them to safely participate in this community.

We are trying to seek a balance between protecting individual rights and the safety and security of the entire University community. Involuntary withdrawal seems to be a more humane and respectful way to support a distressed student, rather than simply referring them to the student judicial process.

I assure you that SOCAT won’t be “focusing on the mentally ill.” Rather, we will be working to offer support and assistance to students whose behavior demonstrates a potential for danger to themselves or others. These types of support teams already exist on campuses throughout the country, and literature suggests that they have been well received by students and staff alike. I hope the same will be true here at USF.

Alan Kent, assistant vice president for Student Affairs