Handholding 101

Posted on November 29, 2016


Here I go again, into No Man’s Land.

I am of course not literally stepping out into No Man’s Land, but I will no doubt offend a few readers. So here goes.

The following invitation to a webinar (google it if you are interested) arrived in my email inbox last week.

Invitation: “Retention through Response: Creating the Virtual Listening Lounge.”

It sounded innocent enough, but my antennae went up. What the heck is a “virtual listening lounge” designed at “retaining students at campus with the Listening Lounge?”

I remember my very first freshman “invocation” where we all were shepherded into an auditorium. I don’t remember a thing about the welcome, but I do remember the dean giving his 1960 version of retention at Duke.

Take a look to your left and right of you. Only one (maybe he said “two” but the lesson was the same) will be left here on graduation day. I don’t remember him mentioning about a virtual listening lounge to keep us happy and entertained.

I was sitting on an aisle seat and there was no one on my left. The guy on my right flunked out freshman year. Already I was developing a survivor’s mentality.

If I want to stay in this place—it had girls (I had gone to an all boy’s prep school), I could buy beer downtown, and we had a great group of guys in my freshman dorm who liked to play hearts on the roof of our dorm, drink beer, and ogle girls (I was still getting used to having them in class with me)—and I wanted to stay there. That was my responsibility. Lesson one.

Now fast forward to 2016.

Apparently going to college today is a high stress situation.

“Coupled with today’s millennial clientele expecting instant relief from stress,” the flyer continued, this stress contributes “to the frequency and number of those withdrawing from college,” adding, and that demonstrates “the long-standing research that correlates personal stress to low academic performance.” We called it flunking out.

I always thought low academic performance—crappy grades—was due to me not reading and studying. I didn’t realize stress was involved here. But now that I know, I can claim that I almost failed calculus twice because I was so stressed out.

But, luckily for today’s students, “many existing programs are in place to ensure student needs are being met on campus.”

The “online Listening Lounge” should appeal to college administrators as well, since more students will be kept in college, thereby providing the “long-term financial incentives” in the “online Listening Lounge.” I.E. keep the tuition money flowing by keeping the clients (what we used to call students) happy, stress free, and, of course, in the classes.

The short and long term benefits are then bulleted for study by the good hearted, stress-relieving administrators eager to keep the tuition income flowing. I especially liked these:


  • Demonstrating an atmosphere of support that could cause further education
  • Investing in the reputation of being a caring university
  • Providing an opportunity to blend academic tutoring with stress response for client peripheral issues

I thought, what are “client peripheral issues?” For me I think it was coeds, beer, and touch football.

I wondered about “demonstrating an atmosphere of support that could cause further education.” I didn’t know that one could “cause” education. I always thought either I did it, or it didn’t get done.

I, for example, had to speak to my calculus instructor the second time around and explain how my high stress was causing me seriously to undermine my curiosity and interest in mathematics. He promised to pass me if I never took another math course at Duke. That was a no brainer before “no brainer” was invented.

The live webinar will explain the Lounge concept.

I especially admired the “Evaluate” bullet. It is educationaleeze at its very best: “Evaluate response on a biannual basis through frequency-of-occurrence statistical measurements in terms of prioritizing stress-points indicated by clients, thereby allowing your institution to proactively address problems before they arise.”

I hope administrators and any others out there who stumbled onto this column take this Webinar to heart. I liked branding us more sympathetically as “caring universities.” I wonder if this is a selling point for Nick Saban when he’s recruiting?

The webinar, BTW, is run by an outfit in Durham, North Carolina. They may be linked to Duke—in the same town—and one reason why Mike Krzyzewski, Coach K, has been so successful. Or not.

Published as “A ‘Virtual Listening Lounge?’ Say What? in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday Nov. 6, 2016.

Posted in: Education