Frequently Asked Questions about the Mandated Safety Assessment (MSA) Protocol
Why me? I know lots of students who do what I've done or feel as I feel.
It's true, you may know of other students who need help more than you do, or who have engaged in
riskier behaviors. Maybe a report was written about you because you talked about suicide one time,
but you know of other students who cut regularly, who have taken pills, burned themselves, mentioned
a wish to die or to hurt someone else, are starving themselves, have blacked out from alcohol
consumption, or any number of other behaviors that seem more serious to you than your situation.
If there's someone you're worried about, we hope you'll encourage him or her to take advantage of
counseling, too. But since someone reported concerns about some actions you'd taken and statements
you've made, we want to do all we can to ensure your well-being and that of concerned others around
I've been in counseling before, and I didn't like it. If you send me to the Counseling Center,
I'll just sit there. Why are you still requiring that I go?
Developing trust in your relationship with a counselor is key to this process being helpful. It
may be that your prior experience really was a poor fit between you and your therapist, or that
you did not trust what you said to remain confidential. We encourage you to talk to your counselor
about your concerns. If the fit with the first counselor you meet isn't right, you are welcome to
request a shift to someone else on or off-campus.
What happens if I go to the Counseling Center, and after one or more sessions, my
counselor determines that I've not complied with treatment?
If you feel like you've complied with the program but your counselor disagrees, you have several
choices. You can request a meeting with the Director of the Counseling Center or the Dean of Students
to discuss your concerns. You can decide to change counselors either to another on- or off-campus therapist.
We want this to be a positive and useful experience for you.
In order to make this experience as useful as possible for you, we have determined through
experience that certain things are necessary. If you do not do these things, you will not be
considered in compliance. For example, it may also be that a student appears for the appointment(s),
but does not make a good-faith effort to participate in the assessment. A student who is
chronically late for appointments, re-schedules or no-shows multiple times will also not meet the
If this should happen, you may be asked to begin your mandated assessment over again with another
counselor on- or off-campus. It might be helpful to talk to your prior counselor for specific
feedback about what would need to proceed differently in order for you to satisfy the College's
requirements. Ultimately, failure to complete the assessment could result in further action by
the College, but the hope is that if the Counseling Center is not the ideal place for you
to get your assessment, that you will simply get the recommended evaluation or treatment in the
setting that is right for you.
How can you un-enroll me from my academic classes, based on my social behavior?
The two are inter-twined. We recommend you carefully read the students Rights and Responsibilities in the Student
So for example, students who are on academic probation are sometimes disallowed from co-curricular
activities like athletics, theater, leadership positions, clubs, or any other activity by which
they might represent the College. We look upon dis-enrolling students who are struggling as a
responsibility for us, not as a punishment for them. It would be irresponsible of us to let
someone who is failing classes and not making progress towards a degree invest all his or her time
as a club president while they pay full tuition. Similarly, to let someone who is struggling
emotionally keep plugging along in classes until a major trauma occurs would be unfair to the
person and to the people around them.
What happens to the tuition money we paid if I get dis-enrolled from my classes?
The College publishes a schedule that shows the percentage of tuition that is returned to students
depending upon the point in the semester at which they depart campus. Please consult the Dean of Students
office(603-358-2842) for these specific figures.
What happens if I'm participating in the assessment like I'm supposed to, and a new
Safety Assessment Referral Form is written about me?
If this were to happen, the Safety Assessment Committee would consider if there is something more that needs to be done
to keep you and the community around you safe. Although the Committee would acknowledge that you
were following through with the required assessment, it would become increasingly concerned with
your behavior (even during the process of an assessment.) If the Committee receives repeated reports of
risky behavior, the response of the Committee is likely to escalate in an effort to protect your health
and the welfare of those around you.
It may look to other people like I am harming myself, but I have no intention of dying.
Do I still go through this if I'm honestly not suicidal?
Yes, because your behavior caused others concern. Only you will know whether you were intending to
really kill yourself, and whether you might ever plan to do so. The concern is for your
behavior and not about trying to read your intention. We cannot expect your peers or faculty to interpret
your behaviors or diagnose your level of distress, either. You may speak with the counselor you
work with about what you were actually thinking, and how you feel about how things have turned out
(including about getting this letter.) But frankly, if you've worried others, you're a high priority
for us. We need the community to feel safe to all, whether or not you are actually at high risk. For
example, sometimes students who have anorexia don't realize how deeply their health issues are
affecting those around them.
Okay, honestly, I was suicidal for a bit there, but I'm fine now. Do I still have to get
Yes. Many students mention suicidal feelings in the course of participating in psychotherapy, and
we know that this is not the same as planning to kill one's self. We all develop some
self-destructive ways of coping at times, when things aren't going well. This is a chance to talk
about what patterns you've developed and what more effective coping strategies you might add to
So what if I am suicidal? It's my right to take my life if I choose to do so.
We know that only you have ultimate control over how you interact with your body. But suicide is a
form of violent behavior, and you do not have the right to engage in behaviors that harm you (and
therefore those around you) while a member of our campus community without some consequences. Your
student status is a privilege you have earned (and can lose), not a right that you remain entitled
to regardless of your academic performance or behavioral choices.
Why does Keene State College have this policy?
This model was adopted by several other institutions at the same time. It's an approach that
originated at the College of Illinois, where it resulted in decreasing student suicides by 50%
over a number of years. The policy has the potential to help KSC students, too.
Why are faculty, staff and students keeping such a close eye on my welfare?
We believe that getting students support when they need it is important; that's why folks are
paying close attention. We really hope for students to enjoy and benefit from their Keene State
experience, not just to survive it; health - both physical and emotional -- is a huge part of that
How can you say the assessment is "confidential" if I have to give you permission to tell
the Safety Assessment Committee whether I've come or not?
It's called a consent for limited release of information, and the authorization is only for those
things the counselor needs to communicate to the Committee. The counselor will need your permission to
confirm that you have completed the MSA protocol, but (s)he can't (and wouldn't want to) share
anything about the nature of what you'd discussed. Without your written consent, the counselor
can't even acknowledge that (s)he knows you!
You should be aware that there is certain information a counselor is required to report such as: If you
are assessed to be at imminent risk of harming yourself or others, if you report ongoing abuse of
children or dependent adults, or if there is a court order of your record. So you're correct in that, mandated
assessments are not 100% confidential in the sense that the counselor will need to reassure the
Safety Assessment Committee that you are following-through, but this need not cause disruption to the
trust in your counseling relationship.
I want to appeal. How may I go about that?
As noted in the letter you received from the Dean of Students, you may appeal this action to the
Vice President of Student Affairs. This office is in the L.P. Young Student Center on the third
floor, and the phone number is 603-358-2108. This must occur within 24 hours of
your having received this letter. When you make this formal appointment, the Vice
President of Student Affairs or a designee will communicate what else may be required of you (if anything) in
preparation for this meeting.