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When Hope and Fear Collide (Levine and Cureton)

When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Students
When Hope and Fear Collide (Levine and Cureton) When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Students Today's college undergraduates are frightened. They are afraid that they will not have enough money to complete college. They are afraid of not finding a job after graduation. They are afraid that they will be victims of crime. And, after watching their parents or others close to them divorce, they are afraid of intimacy. In When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Students, published by Jossey-Bass, authors Arthur Levine and Jeannette S. Cureton paint a disturbing portrait of the turmoil undergraduates are going through. Their work, which was funded by the Lilly Foundation, is based on surveys of nearly 10,000 undergraduates nationwide, 270 student affairs officers at two- and four-year colleges across the country, and on a series of daylong interviews of students at 28 public and private colleges. They compared their responses to the results of other surveys of undergraduates and student affairs officers during the last 30 years. (Levine is president of Teachers College, Columbia University, and is the former chair of the Institute for Educational Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Cureton is an independent scholar and researcher. She previously served as assistant to the president of Curry College. She was also a research assistant to Levine at Harvard.) To be sure, the portrait is not entirely bleak. Students say with pride that their generation is going to be the one to clean up the economic and social problems created during the baby-boomer years. Interest in teaching careers has risen as this generation increasingly views working in public schools as a kind of domestic Peace Corps. Many are attacking environmental issues with the same fervor. Fears About Their Financial Futures Yet, they are afraid, the authors say. Their surveys found that: Only 25 percent are confident of being able to finance a college education. 30 percent are not sure whether they will have enough money to complete college. 21 percent reported that someone who helped pay their tuition and other expenses became unemployed during their college years. They are not just uncertain about their economic futures. They are also afraid of being physically and emotionally hurt. Sometimes their reasons are rational. Sometimes, they aren't. For example, the authors found that 46 percent of undergraduates are worried about becoming victims of crime. They asked one female junior on a suburban campus in an affluent area why she was afraid. "She couldn't think of any incidents that had occurred on her campus. Instead, she told us the college had recently introduced emergency phones, stronger outdoor lighting, and nighttime escort services. For her, cause and prevention were the same thing. Both fueled her fears." Students have more concrete reasons for being emotionally insecure. Thirty percent of them grew up with one or neither parent. Many of them moved often--27 percent had moved four or more times while growing up. Among students of color, the proportion was higher--36 percent had moved four or more times. "For these students, there were frequently no roots, no sense of place, and no strong relationships. They yearned deeply for all of these things, but feared they would never have them," the authors wrote. "The bottom line is that students are coming to college overwhelmed and more damaged than those of previous years." For example: 60 percent of student affairs officer surveyed said that undergraduates are using psychological counseling services in record numbers and for longer periods of time than in the past. Classroom disruptions have increased at 44 percent of the colleges surveyed. Drug abuse has increased 42 percent. Alcohol abuse is up 35 percent. Gambling has grown by 25 percent. Suicide attempts have risen 23 percent. One dean of students told the authors that he is "dealing with more psychopathology among students of all levels and all backgrounds." The authors conclude: "The effect of the accumulated fears and hurts that students have experienced is to divide and isolate them. Undergraduates have developed a lifeboat mentality of sorts. It is as if each student is alone in a boat in a terrible storm, far from any harbor. The boat is taking on water and believed to be in imminent danger of sinking. Under these circumstances, there is but one alternative: each student must single-mindedly bail. Conditions are so bad that no one has time to care for others who may also be foundering. No distractions are permitted. The pressure is enormous and unremitting." Fear of Intimacy but Engage in Casual Sex The pressure also takes a toll on their lives outside the classroom. Indeed, the authors found that many students are afraid of becoming intimately involved because of the "potential for getting hurt, for adding to one's burden or for personal failure." 30 percent of the students surveyed said that they had no social life. 11 percent listed "sleeping" as a form of recreation. 21 percent list "studying" as a leisure activity. Many students, of course, go to movies or concerts. But in a sense, the television show "Friends" has become a model for their social life. "Two-person dating has been replaced by group dating, in which men and women travel in unpartnered packs. It's a practice that provides protection from deeper involvement and intimacy," the authors said. A student at Southern Methodist University summed it up: "I don't think there is much serious dating until people are seniors. I mean, people go out a lot but do not want serious relationships. There is a lot of sex. College is about casual sex." Oddly, the students were uncomfortable about discussing race relations on campus, but they openly and freely discussed intimate details of their sex lives. "Campus interviews with both chief student affairs officers and undergraduates reveal a limited student understanding of safe sex, ambiguity about the dividing line between health risks and issues of morality, and a sense of almost complete invincibility. The dean at Concordia College in Oregon observed: 'I think 12- to 22-year-olds still feel indestructible." A student at Boston University told the authors that the threat of AIDS means that a student will observe a person for a while before sleeping with him. "Of course, a number of student suggested the waiting period was until the second date," the authors wrote. Students described sex "largely as a succession of one-night stands fueled by alcohol." Alcohol: The Drug of Choice A dean at the University of Texas at Arlington offered another connection between alcohol and sex. He said: "I see a lot of trauma, especially for young white men. Women and minorities are challenging the shrinking job pool. Men find a macho conviviality in alcohol, and this leads to angry feelings and abuse, especially sexual abuse." Alcohol is the drug of choice among many college students. There has always been drinking on college campuses, the authors note. The issue today is the amount of alcohol consumed and the problems that ensue. The authors cite a survey by the Commission on Substance Abuse at College and Universities: In the last five years, the number of emergency admissions for alcohol poisoning on college campuses has risen 15 percent. 60 percent of college women diagnosed last year with a sexually transmitted disease were drunk at the time of infection. Two-thirds of college student suicide victims were intoxicated at the time of death. Alcohol is involved in 80 percent of campus vandalism, 90 percent of campus rapes, and 95 percent of violent crime on campus. Helping Students Deal with Their Fears Conflicting hopes and fears batter the current generation of college student. On one hand, they are: Optimistic about their personal futures and our collective future; Desperately committed to preserving the American dream; Hardworking; Socially conscious and active; Idealistic, altruistic and committed to doing good. On the other hand, they are: Frightened; Weak in basic skills; Able to learn best in ways different from how their professors teach; Disenchanted with politics and the nation's social institutions; Heavy users of alcohol; Sexually active, but socially isolated. "This generation is no better and no worse than any other generation, but like every other generation before, it is unique." Because it is unique, the authors say that colleges need to develop a unique response to their needs. Colleges need to provide this generation of students: Hope. "The kind of conviction that allows a person to rise each morning and face the new day." Responsibility. "Despite all we said about the adversities this generation is facing, current college students are still among the most fortunate people in the world. They owe something to others." Appreciation of differences. "Today's undergraduates are living in a world in which differences are multiplying and change is the norm, but they attend colleges that are often segregated on the basis of differences and where relationships between diverse populations are strained." Efficacy. "That is a sense that one can make a difference. Here again, current undergraduates affirmed this belief at the highest rates recorded in a quarter century, but in focus group interviews they expressed serious doubts." "This is a generation that is desperately clinging to its dreams," the authors concluded, "but their hope, though broadly processed, is fragile and gossamer-like. Their lives are being challenged at every turn: in their families, their communities, their nation, and their world. What is remarkable is that their hopes have not been engulfed by their fears." Colleges Participating in the Daylong Student Interviews Berkshire Community College (Pittsfield, Mass.) Boston University (Boston, Mass.) Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.) Catholic University (Washington, DC) Concordia College (Portland, Ore.) Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa) Emerson College (Boston, Mass.) Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Ga.) Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, Ill.) Los Angeles Valley College (Van Nuys, Calif.) Manhattan College (Riverdale, NY) Morris Brown College (Atlanta, Ga.) Oglethorpe University (Atlanta, Ga.) Polk Community College (Winter Haven, Fla.) Rollins College (Winter Park, Fla.) Roosevelt University (Chicago, Ill.) St. John's University (Jamaica, NY) Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas) Tunxis Community College (Farmington, Conn.) University of California at Santa Barbara University of Colorado at Boulder University of the District of Columbia University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Minneapolis, Minn.) University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa) University of Texas at Arlington Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.) Wellesley College (Wellesley, Mass.) Review copies of When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Students are available from Jossey-Bass. Contact Kim Corbin by fax at (415) 433-0499. To purchase a copy of the book, call Jossey-Bass at (800) 956-7739 or send a fax to (800) 605-2665 or (415)433-0499. Teachers College is the largest graduate school of education in the nation. It is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. For the last two years in a row, the editors of U.S. News and World Report have ranked Teachers College as the number one graduate school of education. 2/9/98 For more information about items listed in the News Bureau, contact: Barry Rosen Executive Director of External Affairs 212-678-3176 Mary Crystal Cage Director of Communications 212-678-3771 Nancy Masterson-Newkirk Publications Coordinator 212-678-4147 Diane Dobry Publications Writer 212-678-3979

Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2001

When Hope and Fear Collide (Levine and Cureton)

When Hope and Fear Collide (Levine and Cureton) When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Students Today's college undergraduates are frightened. They are afraid that they will not have enough money to complete college. They are afraid of not finding a job after graduation. They are afraid that they will be victims of crime. And, after watching their parents or others close to them divorce, they are afraid of intimacy. In When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Students, published by Jossey-Bass, authors Arthur Levine and Jeannette S. Cureton paint a disturbing portrait of the turmoil undergraduates are going through. Their work, which was funded by the Lilly Foundation, is based on surveys of nearly 10,000 undergraduates nationwide, 270 student affairs officers at two- and four-year colleges across the country, and on a series of daylong interviews of students at 28 public and private colleges. They compared their responses to the results of other surveys of undergraduates and student affairs officers during the last 30 years. (Levine is president of Teachers College, Columbia University, and is the former chair of the Institute for Educational Management at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Cureton is an independent scholar and researcher. She previously served as assistant to the president of Curry College. She was also a research assistant to Levine at Harvard.) To be sure, the portrait is not entirely bleak. Students say with pride that their generation is going to be the one to clean up the economic and social problems created during the baby-boomer years. Interest in teaching careers has risen as this generation increasingly views working in public schools as a kind of domestic Peace Corps. Many are attacking environmental issues with the same fervor. Fears About Their Financial Futures Yet, they are afraid, the authors say. Their surveys found that: Only 25 percent are confident of being able to finance a college education. 30 percent are not sure whether they will have enough money to complete college. 21 percent reported that someone who helped pay their tuition and other expenses became unemployed during their college years. They are not just uncertain about their economic futures. They are also afraid of being physically and emotionally hurt. Sometimes their reasons are rational. Sometimes, they aren't. For example, the authors found that 46 percent of undergraduates are worried about becoming victims of crime. They asked one female junior on a suburban campus in an affluent area why she was afraid. "She couldn't think of any incidents that had occurred on her campus. Instead, she told us the college had recently introduced emergency phones, stronger outdoor lighting, and nighttime escort services. For her, cause and prevention were the same thing. Both fueled her fears." Students have more concrete reasons for being emotionally insecure. Thirty percent of them grew up with one or neither parent. Many of them moved often--27 percent had moved four or more times while growing up. Among students of color, the proportion was higher--36 percent had moved four or more times. "For these students, there were frequently no roots, no sense of place, and no strong relationships. They yearned deeply for all of these things, but feared they would never have them," the authors wrote. "The bottom line is that students are coming to college overwhelmed and more damaged than those of previous years." For example: 60 percent of student affairs officer surveyed said that undergraduates are using psychological counseling services in record numbers and for longer periods of time than in the past. Classroom disruptions have increased at 44 percent of the colleges surveyed. Drug abuse has increased 42 percent. Alcohol abuse is up 35 percent. Gambling has grown by 25 percent. Suicide attempts have risen 23 percent. One dean of students told the authors that he is "dealing with more psychopathology among students of all levels and all backgrounds." The authors conclude: "The effect of the accumulated fears and hurts that students have experienced is to divide and isolate them. Undergraduates have developed a lifeboat mentality of sorts. It is as if each student is alone in a boat in a terrible storm, far from any harbor. The boat is taking on water and believed to be in imminent danger of sinking. Under these circumstances, there is but one alternative: each student must single-mindedly bail. Conditions are so bad that no one has time to care for others who may also be foundering. No distractions are permitted. The pressure is enormous and unremitting." Fear of Intimacy but Engage in Casual Sex The pressure also takes a toll on their lives outside the classroom. Indeed, the authors found that many students are afraid of becoming intimately involved because of the "potential for getting hurt, for adding to one's burden or for personal failure." 30 percent of the students surveyed said that they had no social life. 11 percent listed "sleeping" as a form of recreation. 21 percent list "studying" as a leisure activity. Many students, of course, go to movies or concerts. But in a sense, the television show "Friends" has become a model for their social life. "Two-person dating has been replaced by group dating, in which men and women travel in unpartnered packs. It's a practice that provides protection from deeper involvement and intimacy," the authors said. A student at Southern Methodist University summed it up: "I don't think there is much serious dating until people are seniors. I mean, people go out a lot but do not want serious relationships. There is a lot of sex. College is about casual sex." Oddly, the students were uncomfortable about discussing race relations on campus, but they openly and freely discussed intimate details of their sex lives. "Campus interviews with both chief student affairs officers and undergraduates reveal a limited student understanding of safe sex, ambiguity about the dividing line between health risks and issues of morality, and a sense of almost complete invincibility. The dean at Concordia College in Oregon observed: 'I think 12- to 22-year-olds still feel indestructible." A student at Boston University told the authors that the threat of AIDS means that a student will observe a person for a while before sleeping with him. "Of course, a number of student suggested the waiting period was until the second date," the authors wrote. Students described sex "largely as a succession of one-night stands fueled by alcohol." Alcohol: The Drug of Choice A dean at the University of Texas at Arlington offered another connection between alcohol and sex. He said: "I see a lot of trauma, especially for young white men. Women and minorities are challenging the shrinking job pool. Men find a macho conviviality in alcohol, and this leads to angry feelings and abuse, especially sexual abuse." Alcohol is the drug of choice among many college students. There has always been drinking on college campuses, the authors note. The issue today is the amount of alcohol consumed and the problems that ensue. The authors cite a survey by the Commission on Substance Abuse at College and Universities: In the last five years, the number of emergency admissions for alcohol poisoning on college campuses has risen 15 percent. 60 percent of college women diagnosed last year with a sexually transmitted disease were drunk at the time of infection. Two-thirds of college student suicide victims were intoxicated at the time of death. Alcohol is involved in 80 percent of campus vandalism, 90 percent of campus rapes, and 95 percent of violent crime on campus. Helping Students Deal with Their Fears Conflicting hopes and fears batter the current generation of college student. On one hand, they are: Optimistic about their personal futures and our collective future; Desperately committed to preserving the American dream; Hardworking; Socially conscious and active; Idealistic, altruistic and committed to doing good. On the other hand, they are: Frightened; Weak in basic skills; Able to learn best in ways different from how their professors teach; Disenchanted with politics and the nation's social institutions; Heavy users of alcohol; Sexually active, but socially isolated. "This generation is no better and no worse than any other generation, but like every other generation before, it is unique." Because it is unique, the authors say that colleges need to develop a unique response to their needs. Colleges need to provide this generation of students: Hope. "The kind of conviction that allows a person to rise each morning and face the new day." Responsibility. "Despite all we said about the adversities this generation is facing, current college students are still among the most fortunate people in the world. They owe something to others." Appreciation of differences. "Today's undergraduates are living in a world in which differences are multiplying and change is the norm, but they attend colleges that are often segregated on the basis of differences and where relationships between diverse populations are strained." Efficacy. "That is a sense that one can make a difference. Here again, current undergraduates affirmed this belief at the highest rates recorded in a quarter century, but in focus group interviews they expressed serious doubts." "This is a generation that is desperately clinging to its dreams," the authors concluded, "but their hope, though broadly processed, is fragile and gossamer-like. Their lives are being challenged at every turn: in their families, their communities, their nation, and their world. What is remarkable is that their hopes have not been engulfed by their fears." Colleges Participating in the Daylong Student Interviews Berkshire Community College (Pittsfield, Mass.) Boston University (Boston, Mass.) Carleton College (Northfield, Minn.) Catholic University (Washington, DC) Concordia College (Portland, Ore.) Drake University (Des Moines, Iowa) Emerson College (Boston, Mass.) Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Ga.) Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, Ill.) Los Angeles Valley College (Van Nuys, Calif.) Manhattan College (Riverdale, NY) Morris Brown College (Atlanta, Ga.) Oglethorpe University (Atlanta, Ga.) Polk Community College (Winter Haven, Fla.) Rollins College (Winter Park, Fla.) Roosevelt University (Chicago, Ill.) St. John's University (Jamaica, NY) Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas) Tunxis Community College (Farmington, Conn.) University of California at Santa Barbara University of Colorado at Boulder University of the District of Columbia University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Minneapolis, Minn.) University of Northern Iowa (Cedar Falls, Iowa) University of Texas at Arlington Wayne State University (Detroit, Mich.) Wellesley College (Wellesley, Mass.) Review copies of When Hope and Fear Collide: A Portrait of Today's College Students are available from Jossey-Bass. Contact Kim Corbin by fax at (415) 433-0499. To purchase a copy of the book, call Jossey-Bass at (800) 956-7739 or send a fax to (800) 605-2665 or (415)433-0499. Teachers College is the largest graduate school of education in the nation. It is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. For the last two years in a row, the editors of U.S. News and World Report have ranked Teachers College as the number one graduate school of education. 2/9/98 For more information about items listed in the News Bureau, contact: Barry Rosen Executive Director of External Affairs 212-678-3176 Mary Crystal Cage Director of Communications 212-678-3771 Nancy Masterson-Newkirk Publications Coordinator 212-678-4147 Diane Dobry Publications Writer 212-678-3979
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