Universities need to watch their students’ mental health

After spending a year and a half here, I think I’m entitled to declare myself part of the U of I community.

I’m a firm believer in “Once an Illini, Always an Illini.” I expect this law to apply to me whether I graduate with high honors, or I decide to drop out of college today and become an alpaca farmer instead. Either way, I feel like I would technically still be a part of the community.

I pay $25,000 a year to come here, so U of I gets to deal with all of me now and when I graduate: the good, the bad, and the ugly. This should apply to all students.

Jared Loughner, the accused shooter at Tuscon, started off as a normal college student. However, he took a turn for the worst, disrupting his classes and posting a disturbing video about his school.

And after he was asked to leave Pima Community College, the school never checked up on him further.

It’s easy to argue that since Loughner was asked not to return to Pima, the college had no ties to him. Sayonara buddy, and don’t come back without a psychologist’s evaluation.

But honestly, who better to see if he was doing okay mentally than his alma mater? Wouldn’t a quick mental check-up on the kid here and there have been a good idea? And (dare I ponder) if the school had seen that he was still troubled, would it have possibly deterred him from pulling the trigger on Jan. 8?

College isn’t supposed to be your surrogate mother. Deans don’t wake you up for class, professors don’t make sure you’re eating healthy and RAs don’t do your laundry for you (unless you’ve successfully managed to pay them off). One of the unspoken themes of higher education is “grow up and live your life.”

However, if a student has a serious problem, it is the university’s job to help them out, especially if the college knows about any mental health issues. And if the student ends up dropping out or getting kicked out, their college shouldn’t completely have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality about them.

The Counseling Center at the University of Illinois is one resource on campus where students are allowed to come in at any time or make an appointment … as long as they are active students and pay the student health fee. After that, a graduate, droppie or an expelled student can make one, and only one, additional appointment with the center.

It’s true that we don’t totally toss former students to the curb. If any non-active student comes in for that appointment, and needs additional help, the center refers them to other counseling centers around the Champaign-Urbana area.

However, more still can be done. At Virginia Tech, for example, when they remove a threatening student, they have either campus police or a psychologist monitor their progress. It sounds almost Big Brother-esque, but the alternative — having a former student turn shooter — is much worse.

Universities need to claim all students as their own, whether it’s a troubled student one more inappropriate essay away from expulsion, a famous alumnus or a sophomore trying to survive two and half more years here.

Tolu is a sophomore in Media.