Support Initiative Raises Awareness on Campus

Dean of Students Ricardo Hall, center, calls up students Danielle Landau, left, and Emad Mohammed, right, to show what being a caring ’Cane is all about.

Dean of Students Ricardo Hall summoned two students from a crowd gathered at The Rock to make a point. Starting with sophomore Danielle Landau, he said, “Danielle is jogging on the periphery of campus. She falls, twists her ankle, and is writhing in pain. What do you do, Emad?” Standing before his peers, freshman biology major Emad Mohammed wasted little time in answering, “I’d help her up.”

The impromptu demonstration was part of a February event to raise awareness about ’Canes Care for ’Canes, a University-wide initiative launched last spring.

Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs, came up with the idea after the murder of University of Virginia lacrosse player Yeardley Love, whose ex-boyfriend, George Huguely, is charged in her death.

“If you know someone’s in trouble and they need some assistance, call us,” Whitely urged. “There are plenty of places at the University that can help, whether it’s the Counseling Center, the Department of Wellness and Recreation, or our Dean of Students Office. We just don’t want anyone to be hurting in this community or to need any assistance without someone knowing about it.”

UM’s program, modeled after a similar approach at University of Southern California, also uses an interactive website,, where students can anonymously report concerns, access academic and interpersonal resources, and nominate “Caring ’Canes” for recognition.

Sophomore Kristen Spillane and senior Samantha Flanagan head up the ’Canes Care Ambassadors. They use social media and live events, such as the recent Orientation and Canefest 2011, to let their peers know they are not going to college alone. “It doesn’t even have to be a big thing,” says Spillane. “It can be something simple like learning the ropes.”

Underlying all of these efforts is one simple theme. “If someone needs help, get them help,” says Flanagan. “We are all friends with each other. It’s really just taking it a step further.”