• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


Friday Fragments

Student anxiety, desk nostalgia and cartoon crushes.

August 7, 2020

Thanks to everyone who volunteered answers to yesterday’s question about student anxiety in a pandemic. The answers were scattered across formats, so I assembled some highlights here.

One correspondent noted that anxiety tends to flourish in the isolated mind, so finding ways to build human connections can help. That’s a unique challenge in the age of social distancing, for obvious reasons, but all the more important for that. On Twitter, somebody mentioned that her fifth grader was okay with the prospect of a mostly online year, but that she’d like to meet her teacher first. That struck me as an intuitive version of the same idea.

Jill DeTemple pointed me to this piece that she had published in Inside Higher Ed in April on a similar subject. The piece suggests taking time in Zoom classes to help students focus on times when they’ve been resilient in the past; it reminded me of Jennifer Silva’s insight in Coming Up Short that young people now, for whom the old economic markers of adulthood are seemingly out of reach, will use stories of triumph over personal trauma as markers of adulthood.

She also suggested a weekly “covid cafe,” in which a small group of students -- maybe six or so -- gather (on Zoom) and talk about whatever they’re dealing with at the time. It’s a tough solution to scale, but it could make a real difference for some students.

A Floridian correspondent mentioned that her college has contracted with some local providers of mental health services, and that students who are referred there get a couple of free visits.

There were also some responses that referred to syllabus content. In one case, the professor includes syllabus language to the effect that she knows that many students are struggling right now, but that their presence in the class itself indicates belief in a possible better future. That struck me as hopeful.

Finally, Sara Goldrick-Rab pointed me to this report from the Hope Center.

The consensus of the comments seemed to be that student anxiety is real and probably aggravated by the pandemic. I think that’s right. Here’s hoping we meet the challenge.


The power has been out at our house since Tuesday, so every use of the laptop or the hotspot function on the phone has to be rationed carefully. On Thursday morning, a Zoom meeting drained the laptop so badly that I had to drive to the office to get any more work done, and to recharge the laptop.

After months of working at home, the office seemed so … decadent. A full-size monitor! A printer that’s fast, and prints colors accurately! A desk! Air-conditioning! I almost felt guilty.

It took me back to my adjuncting days at DeVry. The adjuncts had a sort of bullpen in the midst of the faculty offices. I used to go in on days when I didn’t have class just to partake of the sweet, sweet air-conditioning. (It was a tech school and this was the '90s; they had to keep the computers cool. All those CRT monitors …)

Working at home has undeniable benefits, not the least of which is keeping healthy. But I miss going to work.


This week I discovered that three of the four of us living here had our first celebrity crushes on cartoon characters. Mine, of course, was Danger-Prone Daphne, from Scooby-Doo. The Wife’s was Speed Racer. It turns out that The Girl’s was Raven, from Teen Titans.

I like to think that we move in stages: first two dimensions, and then three. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Share Article


Matt Reed

Back to Top