A recent story about a former Helen Lowry Hall resident prompted Head of Counselling Service Gerard Hoffman to contact Salient.
The story, printed in Salient issue 18, alleged an invasion of privacy by hostel management, who entered a resident’s room, found and read his creative writing, and then questioned him about his mental state.
The former resident told Salient he was unsure what they had read, but that some of his creative writing content is “kind of dark, I guess”.
Hostel manager Janine Arcus told Salient that management approached a counsellor for advice following the discovery of the writing.
Hoffman is unable to comment specifically on the piece of writing, due to a lack of knowledge around the legalities of the issue, but believes the staff at Helen Lowry “responded well” to their concerns about the student.
Hoffman says the incident and aftermath are “unfortunate” but stresses that it is better to be safe than sorry, and says that the Counselling Service actively encourages staff to share their concerns if a student seems to falling through the cracks.
Hoffman says “we want this university to be caring and compassionate”, and points out that students have committed suicide in the past. Hoffman says staff regularly approach the service with confidential concerns or enquiries about students’ well-being.
The University’s staff, both academic and hostel management, have a “duty of care”, says Hoffman, who encourages staff to “at least check it out and seek advice.” The student concerned may then be encouraged to go talk to an appropriate person, such as a counsellor.
Hoffman says the Helen Lowry situation is toeing a fine line as students don’t appreciate other adults interfering in their lives. However, he maintains that Arcus had used “common sense” when talking to the student and seeking advice “because he could have been really depressed for all she knew.”
“It may have pissed the student off but it was done with good intention,” he says.