Danielle Landau and Emad Mohammed had never met each other during their time as University of Miami students. But on Tuesday they came face to face for the first time, standing behind a podium on the University Center Rock with Dean of Students Ricardo Hall, who had summoned the two out of a crowd of students to prove a point.
“Danielle is jogging on the periphery of campus,” Hall said to Mohammed. “She falls, twists her ankle, and is writhing in pain. What do you do, Emad?”
The freshman biology major wasted little time in responding, “I’d help her up.”
Emad’s response, Hall said to the dozens of students who had gathered around, is at the heart of a new University-wide initiative aimed at creating a caring campus community.
’Canes Care for ’Canes rolled out Phase II of its comprehensive program on February 15, hosting a two-hour event at which prominent UM leaders reiterated the initiative’s mission of using existing University resources to assist students in need.
“Don’t be a bystander,” Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely told students. “What can you do for a fellow ‘Cane? If you know someone’s in trouble and they need some assistance, call us. There are plenty of places at the University that can help, whether it’s the Counseling Center, the Department of Wellness and Recreation, or our Dean of Students Office. We just don’t want anyone to be hurting in this community or need any assistance without someone knowing about it.”
Her message, and Hall’s impromptu demonstration that followed, were intended not only for students but for UM employees. “We do ask and expect that our students care for each other,” Hall said, “and that goes for our faculty and staff as well.”
Representatives from the Counseling Center, Multicultural Student Affairs, Student Government, the Office of the University Ombudsperson, the Office of Academic Enhancement, University of Miami Health Service, and at least four other units staffed tables at the event, answering questions from students and passing out brochures and other materials explaining how to get involved in the program. Phase II of ’Canes Care for ’Canes includes an interactive website in which students and employees can anonymously report whatever concerns they might have for the well-being of a student.
Whitely came up with the idea for ’Canes Care for ’Canes after the murder last May of University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love. Love’s ex-boyfriend, George Huguely, is charged in her death.
Whitely modeled the program after a similar initiative at USC. Among the program’s goals, which are stated on its website:
• Engage students and encourage them to be active participants, not bystanders, in the lives of their classmates and friends (for example, paying attention to and speaking up on behalf of students who need assistance).
• Provide a listing of campus-based and community resources that are available to assist and support students in their academic and interpersonal lives.
• Reach out to students, self-identified or identified by others, and provide the appropriate referrals and resources to address concerns.
“Sometimes there are obstacles to students being successful,” said Whitely. “A student may have a parent pass away or a life-altering family tragedy. We want to reach out to that student as soon as possible.”