October 30, 2022
VP Newsletter: Happy Halloween!


Aloha Yellow Jackets,
Happy All Hallow’s Eve!!!  Not sure how you plan to celebrate Halloween but this is one of my favorite holidays. I love seeing all the costumes and relish the sense of mystery and mischief that is associated with this day. Regardless of how you observe Halloween, I hope you will take steps to ensure your personal safety and that of others by engaging in low-risk drinking or drugging (or refraining altogether) and keeping an eye on friends. 

In this issue of my monthly newsletter, we will cover the following issues:

Getting to Know Spiritual Wellness
Last month in my newsletter, I introduced you to Emotional Wellness, one of the Eight Dimensions outlined in the Cultivate Well-Being Action & Transformation Roadmap. The dimensions of wellness are areas in which you can engage in self-reflection and find small ways to adjust your self-care habits so as to make big impacts in your life. 
We’ll discuss one dimension per month for the rest of the academic year.  This month let’s focus on Spiritual Wellness (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vHbM2hctTo)

Support for Our Global Community
The turmoil that is happening around the world that I noted in last month’s newsletter, continues to affect the global community. While these various crises – war in Ukraine, the violent response to protests in Iran, natural disasters, and other traumas – may seem far away for some, for many of you these events are continuing to erode your emotional wellness as you worry about loved ones, family members and friends.  A communication was sent on October 19th by Provost Steven McLaughlin to all faculty at Georgia Tech asking that they demonstrate compassion and appropriate flexibility to students who are experiencing significant stressors or life impacts.
The Center for Mental Health Care & Resources hosts ongoing sessions of Let’s Talk to support students who may be struggling with what they are feeling.  Multiple sessions are planned weekly and are a good opportunity for informal support if you are feeling anxious or distressed.  In addition, through the Satellite Counseling Program, mental health professional staff have been embedded into Georgia Tech colleges and schools. They offer immediate and local access to the students within those majors and offer weekly walk-in availability to students needing an informal consultation. 
As always, professionals in the Dean of Students Office are available to assist students who need academic assistance and flexibility with regard to class assignments or attendance. In addition, The Dean Griffin Hip Pocket Fund offers interest-free emergency loans to students for academic or personal emergencies. Students in need of financial support from the fund should contact the Dean of Students Office via the request assistance form
Wellness coaching is another resource for students who are experiencing stress. This is a one-on-one service with a trained health educator who helps students identify personal goals and discover individualized strategies to improve overall well-being. Wellness coaches empower students to take the necessary steps to make a desired change in behavior. To learn more or register for this program, visit the Wellness Empowerment Center webpage. Registered student organizations and other student groups can also request prevention programs and health promotion workshops from the WE Center.
Freedom of Expression
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and their 2022-2023 report on College Free Speech Rankings, notable numbers of  “[college] students self-censor, report worry or discomfort about expressing their ideas in a variety of contexts, find controversial ideas hard to discuss, show intolerance for controversial speakers, find their administrations unclear or worse regarding support for free speech, and even report that disruption of events or violence are, to some degree, acceptable tactics for shutting down the speech of others.” 
Our goal is to ensure that no student at Georgia Tech ever feels this way. Georgia Tech’s Freedom of Expression policy states that, “Georgia Tech holds the first amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and the right to assemble peaceably as an essential cornerstone to the advancement of knowledge and the right of a free people. Georgia Tech remains firmly committed to affording every member of the Institute community the opportunity to engage in a peaceful and orderly exercise of these rights.”
One of the benefits of learning at Georgia Tech is the wide breadth of experiences, cultural backgrounds, world views, and perspectives reflected in the Yellow Jacket community. Discussions and interactions with those who hold opinions different from our own enhance our lives, expand our knowledge, and help to refine our personal beliefs and values. We won’t always agree, and some viewpoints, when expressed thoughtlessly or in generalizations, may feel like a personal attack. When we engage with a spirit of inquisitive and respectful discourse – in which we tackle ideas rather than attack individuals - we create spaces where we can really learn from each other.
As a public Institution, it is our duty to uphold the rights of free expression accrued to each individual and allow all viewpoints to be shared on our campus. Unless speech clearly falls under legal definitions of what is prohibited – definitions which are narrowly tailored – Georgia Tech cannot and will not suppress that speech. By protecting the free speech rights of all, we thereby protect your free speech rights, as well. 
We know that some viewpoints expressed may seem in direct conflict with an inclusive learning or working environment– or may even be regarded as hateful and dehumanizing. How do we take care of our individual and collective wellness while being a campus community that supports free speech? I believe the answer to that question is in living our values and using our personal agency. Give yourself permission to distance yourself from hateful or troubling speech by leaving the space where it is occurring. Enlist the help of allies to respond constructively in these instances: a powerful antidote to speech that you find hateful is using your voice to offer a counter-narrative!
Time to Vote!
With freedom of expression in mind, the November elections are right around the corner, and I want to encourage you to record your opinion and have your voice be heard through your vote.  No matter which political party you support or where you stand on the issues, you have a fundamental right to voice your preferences, and choosing our elected leaders is one way to do that.  Early voting is already underway and all voting ends on November 8th. Visit the State of Georgia voter information page to learn more about participating in the November election. Information specific to Georgia Tech student voters can be found on the Institute Communications voting information webpage. Voting locations near campus can be found in this Georgia Tech Voter Guide
Finally, please know that Section 4.1.3 of University System of Georgia Board of Regents Policy requires that universities give students an excused absence to vote in local, state, or federal elections if a student's course schedule would prevent them from voting. If you need to miss class to vote, be sure to email your professors ahead of Election Day to request an excused absence.
Closing Thoughts
We are privileged to live in a lively democracy where most of us (although not all of us) have the right to vote and to freely express our views and opinions. With these rights comes the responsibility to exercise your rights purposefully – with respect for others – and to not squander them. 
As we approach the holidays and the inevitable race to the finish that comes as the end-of-term is visible on the horizon, the Division of Student Engagement and Well-Being remains one of many resources available to you for assistance, advocacy, and support. In addition, I encourage each of us to extend grace and care to others – and pay it forward whenever we are able.

Go Jackets!

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Dr. Luoluo Hong
Vice President for Student Engagement & Well‐Being