The ‘Nothing But’

University Student Mental Health and the Hidden Curriculum of Academic Success

  • Katie Aubrecht Department of Sociology and Canada Research Chair Health Equity & Social Justice St. Francis Xavier University

Abstract

This paper shares findings from a qualitative study on university student mental health and illness that included digitally recorded interviews with university student services and programs professionals and staff at a Canadian university. Transcripts were thematically coded and analyzed using a disability studies informed interpretive sociological approach. Four key themes emerged: dwelling with disclosure, being open to the ‘nothing but’, understanding oneself as ‘not a counselor’, and coming to terms with the reality that under neoliberalism ‘we all fall’ Two key insights also emerged from the analysis: 1) Access to university-based programs and services is shaped by assumptions about productivity and reputation; 2) Psychiatric knowledge and expertise influences and informs how university student services staff understand and enact their roles within the university system. This paper considers how university-wide productivity-oriented psy-knowledge and practices organize and authorize what one participant described as a ‘hidden curriculum’ of academic success. This hidden curriculum manifests in the form of a referral-based resiliency (govern)mentality in university student service provision. It closes with a reflection on the transformative potential of adopting a “critically maladaptive” (McLaren, 2010, p. 504) approach that is attentive to alterity in university-based student services professional perspectives which appears in the form of a thoughtful “but…”.

Author Biography

Katie Aubrecht, Department of Sociology and Canada Research Chair Health Equity & Social Justice St. Francis Xavier University

Department of Sociology and Canada Research Chair Health Equity & Social Justice

St. Francis Xavier University

Published
2019-07-01