On the flip side are the students who meet the dean of students at freshman orientation or elsewhere on campus, feel a connection and talk with him weekly or monthly as they navigate the college experience.
Whether he meets them through conversation or through conflict, Young often becomes more than just an adviser to the students who visit the Dean of Students Office.
“We handle a whole host of issues – adjustment, academic, roommates, disciplinary and student advocacy and outreach,” says Young, who recently was honored for 30 years at BU. “The new name for our office, Dean of Students, makes us much more recognizable than when we were known as the Student Standards Office.”
Young vividly remembers some students who were in the most serious trouble:
• The student who was suspended for a year, returned to BU and was employed in Young’s office until he graduated. “He entered the graduate program here and thanks me daily,” Young says.
• The student who was in “a whole host of trouble,” suspended and jailed for several months. At the student’s request, Young visited him in Columbia County Prison and, when he returned to BU, met with him every week for two years, just to talk. “He graduated and found success in the working world,” Young says.
• And the former student whose infraction was so serious he wasn’t allowed to set foot on campus, but asked Young to meet him to share a pizza at lunchtime as a way of saying “thank you” for his guidance.
“There are more of these stories than not,” Young says. “Sometimes, students need to step back to see what factors are adversely affecting them. This college thing isn’t easy and sometimes they get sidetracked. We want to point them in the right direction. The last thing we want to do is separate them from their education.”
The Right Direction
While it is clear much of Young’s success comes from his rapport with students, added steps in the university’s informal hearing process reinforce the bond and provide students with the opportunity to discuss compliance and concerns about adjustment, academics and living environments. “It allows us to establish a more open and honest connection,” he says. “The result is an enhanced role as a resource for students.”
Workshops, both in person and online, covering choices and decision making, conflict management, civility and related issues also have shown a positive impact on student behavior, he adds.
‘Absent for Sharing Day’
Over the past three decades, alcohol infractions have consistently topped the list of violated policies, Young says, but today “the degree and severity is more extreme.”
“When I first came here, there were kegs at parties, but students didn’t drink to the degree they do today. Now there is liquor in punch and controlled substances. They mix drinks or ingredients to get intoxicated quickly. This leads to fights, vandalism and sexual assaults.”
He attributes this change in student behavior to technology and reality TV. “Technology — the way students communicate — makes it easier to do things they wouldn’t be doing otherwise. TV shows like ‘Survivor’ and ‘Jersey Shore’ show people arguing, fighting, dealing with conflict in that way.”
He believes the increased number of roommate issues springs from students who are socially ill-prepared and unable to cope with disagreements and conflict. “They must have been absent for Sharing Day in kindergarten,” he quips.
Three Decades Later
Young came to Bloomsburg in 1982 to work in Residence Life after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from West Chester State College. Early on, he expected career moves to take him from college to college. Instead, he found ample opportunities, a work environment he enjoyed and strong friendships at BU. Close friends include Jim McCormack ’90/’93M, associate director of Residence Life, and Mark Bauman’95/’00M, an assistant professor, both of whom worked for Young as BU students or early in their careers. Young was best man at McCormack’s wedding and is godfather to his eldest son.
Young credits his professional staff, eight student workers and three graduate assistants for creating an “uplifting family atmosphere” that treats students respectfully. “It’s not all doom and gloom,” he adds.
“We all want students to be successful. We are known for being fair, honest and consistent and we always stress getting an education. The support system is here. People around here understand what you’re going through.
“Our responsibility is to help students find their passion, their purpose, and let them have the best experience.” •
Bonnie Martin is editor of Bloomsburg: The University Magazine.
Tips for College Success
Donald Young, dean of students, offers these tips for success at BU:
• Be open to activities outside your comfort zone.
• Get involved. Part of being in a community is being engaged in it.
• Find your niche in one or more of BU’s nearly 200 clubs and organizations.
(Young is adviser of Campus Crusade and the weightlifting club, known as the Iron Club.)
• Make good decisions to stay out of trouble.
• Balance your social life and your academic life.
He advises students to work as hard as they can academically. “If your best is Cs and Bs, that’s OK,” Young says. “Make the best effort you can and utilize campus resources.”