At the professor panel last week during class in the GLC, one question that a student asked really stuck with me. The student was describing how in High School he had all this support from his teachers and how he could really rely on them and go talk to them personally whenever he need to. But when he got to college, he lost that support and felt like his professors were distant and almost uncaring of him.
Dr. Love received the question and answered to the extent of ‘because that’s not our job’. It definitely wasn’t the answer the audience expected but it is the truth. As professors (at Virginia Tech and many other large research institutions), our job is to do research and teach courses. There is no part of our contract that includes counseling, except for maybe office hours. But Dr. Love was really making the point that, even if its not part of our job contract, it can be part of our teaching philosophy. The great professors that I have had are those that go the extra mile to get to know their students and really care about how their lives are going.
Something else that stuck with me at the panel was something Dr. Perez said. He noted that on his office door, he has a sign that says “safe space”. I think that as professors we can have two different types of office hours, we can have actual education and teaching office hours, like we have now, and we can have safe space office hours, where students can come and talk to us without the fear of pressure. A truly safe space. I know that we have ombudspersons in our departments but I think students are more inclined to talk to people they know and recognize, like a professor.