Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Dispelling student-veterans' stereotypes: Penn State's teaching aide
This video was featured on the Penn State Web site for Counseling & Psychological Services to address "Worrisome Student Behaviors." The link on the Web page was removed last month, but it was preserved on YouTube by the PSU College Republicans, who brought the issue of student-veteran stereotypes to the forefront. A special thanks goes to the director of Cleveland State's SERV program, John Schupp, who brought the video to our attention.
When asked about the questionable nature of the video, Penn State quickly responded to American Veteran's query. Dr. Dennis Heitzmann, Director of Counseling & Psychological Services acknowledged that the video, "may be viewed at worst as unfairly stereotyping members of this important [veterans] constituency." He went on to say in an E-mail that, "...upon realizing the unintended impact on some and the potential impact on others, we immediately removed the video from our website."
Since AMVETS has taken up the cause of veterans' education, the organization has heard from student-veterans across the country about the stigma and stereotypes they often encounter when returning to academia.
Of these stereotypes that AMVETS commonly hears, the Penn State video seemed to reinforce just about all of them: Anger, intimidation, bad attitude, arrogance, academic ineptitude, poor language skills, inability to adapt, self-righteousness, and so on. It appears that stereotypes of the angry veteran have permeated some of the supposed "best and brightest" that our college campuses have hired to mold our nation's youth.
An interesting side-note. I recently was a student-veteran, finishing my degree. From my experience, student-veterans are motivated, hard-working, and outspoken leaders among their peers--usually the type of student a professor would enjoy having in their classroom.
The SERV program at Cleveland State has demonstrated that student-veterans, like any underserved population on a college campus, will succeed in a system that recognizes and addresses their legitimate transitional issues. Programs are in place on college campuses nationwide that address the unique needs of inner-city students, minority students, disabled students, GLBT students, and so on. I've never seen an instructional video on how facutly members should "deal with" these students--that would be an abhorrent gesture--but it seems acceptable when "putting up with" student-veterans.
Thankfully, Student Veterans of America (SVA) has also fought to dispel this stigma through the work of its chapters on college campuses nationwide, and they recently adopted the SERV model as a "best practices" to meet the needs of student-veterans. The VA also recognized the merits of SERV, and I've included their video here:
Studies show that when student-veterans are given the opportunity to succeed, they will often exceed expectations, and Penn State acknowledged that the university values its relationship with student-veterans on their campuses across Pennsylvania.
"The student counseling service has helped scores of veteran students to resolve their unique challenges," Heitzmann said. "We would not want to jeopardize those relationships in any way, particularly in view of the many services we believe we have yet to offer this important student constituency."
AMVETS was encouraged by the swift and thoughtful response from Penn State and Dr. Heitzmann. AMVETS and American Veteran Magazine will continue to work with our partners within the veterans' community, like SERV and SVA, to uphold the honorable reputation of our student-veterans.
Let us know how you feel about this issue by posting your comments below.
(Media: Top: Penn State video about "Worrisome Student Behavior" embedded from the PSU College Republicans' YouTube page. Bottom: Video from the VA's "American Veteran" series highlighting the SERV program from Cleveland State University.)