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September 13, 2007

   

Conference Asks: What Should Colleges Do
About Dangerous Behavior on Campus?

Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui's behavior gave significant cause for alarm in the months before his rage exploded into bloodshed last April, but many news accounts suggested that federal privacy laws had tied the university's hands until Cho acted out his fantasies of violence. Eileen Bazelon disagrees. Bazelon, resident psychiatrist at Bryn Mawr's Health Center, has convened a group of nationally recognized experts to discuss the law and ethics of balancing students' right to privacy against their own safety and that of their communities.

The one-day conference, titled "Dangerous Behavior on College Campuses," will take place in Thomas Great Hall on Bryn Mawr's campus on Monday, Sept. 24. It is open to college and university administrators, counselors, deans, security officers, legal counsel and other interested parties.

Gary Pavela

The program features a keynote address by Gary Pavela , the director of judicial programs at the University of Maryland-College Park and an authority on academic ethics. Pavela, the editor of the quarterly Synthesis: Law and Policy in Higher Education, has been a consultant on law and policy issues at many leading universities and was designated a fellow of the National Association of College and University Attorneys in 2002. His 2006 book, Questions and Answers on College Student Suicide: A Law and Policy Perspective, argues that college administrators have "erred on the side of underreaction, in terms of notifying parents, in terms of hospitalization, in terms of therapeutic resources" in dealing with students who are at risk of suicide.

A panel discussion promises a lively debate among some prominent representatives of a range of positions. The panelists:

  • Arthur Caplan, the Emmanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics at the University of Penn School of Medicine and director of the Center for Bioethics;
  • Carroll Ellis, director of victim services for the Fairfax County Police Department and member of the Virginia Tech Task Force;
  • Karen Bower, attorney, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, who successfully sued Hunter College and George Washington University on behalf of students who were excluded from the university after expressing suicidal thoughts or making suicide gestures;
  • Mark Olshaker, author of Obsession and Mindhunter. Olshaker collaborated on these and other books with former FBI Agent John Douglas, who helped develop the practice of criminal profiling.

In the afternoon, Alison Malmon, the founder and executive director of Active Minds, will give a presentation. Malmon founded the group, which has 72 chapters nationwide, when she was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001; its purpose is to raise awareness of mental-health issues on college campuses.

Conference organizer Eileen Bazelon has served as a psychiatrist at Bryn Mawr for more than 30 years and is an associate professor of psychiatry at the Drexel University College of Medicine. She is a member of the board of trustees of the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, whose mission is to protect and advance the rights of adults and children who have mental disabilities.

For more information about the schedule and registration, download this brochure (a 147K PDF). To register, return the brochure's registration form to:

Health Center Conference
Conferences and Events
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Ave.
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

The $30 registration fee includes lunch; it will be waived for members of the Bryn Mawr faculty and staff who lunch elsewhere. Students are welcome to attend the Active Minds presentation free of charge.

 

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