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What is the Harvard Kennedy School Crimson Folder?

Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) students often encounter challenges during school and may not recognize that they need help. As an administrator, faculty, or staff member, you are in a prime position to guide HKS students in distress to support services. The HKS Crimson Folder is designed to help you prepare to support students by learning how to recognize signs of distress, respond to a student’s needs with attentiveness and empathy, refer the student to others who may be best equipped to help, and by becoming familiar with resources.

Student Privacy, FERPA, and Confidentiality

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) permits communication about a student in connection with a health and safety emergency. Observations of a student’s conduct or statements made by a student are not protected by FERPA. Consideration for student privacy should always be given before information is shared. When communicating with a student, it is important to use the language “private and discreet” rather than “confidential,” as you may need to share information with those listed below.



Stay safe

If there is imminent danger to you, the student, or someone else, call HUPD 617-495-1212 or 911.

Take your time

Actively listen to the student’s concerns and consider how you might be able to help. Choose an appropriate place or situation for having this conversation.

Stay calm

Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. Use a calm voice when talking and asking questions.

Use active listening

Make eye contact and give your full attention. Restate what the student says to make sure you understand what is causing the distress (e.g., “As I listen to you, I hear you saying…”).

Ask direct questions

Don’t be afraid to directly ask the student if they are having thoughts of harming themselves or others. By asking questions you are not instilling the thought.

Respond tips


Identify what the student needs.

Listen to the student to determine their immediate needs. Review the options below to guide the student to the appropriate resource.


If the student’s conduct is clearly reckless, dangerous, disorderly, or threatening of immediate harm to self or others in the community, call HUPD at 617-495-1212 or 911.

Any report made to HUPD involving an HKS student will be brought to the attention of the Harvard Kennedy School Dean of Students Office.


If the student shows signs of distress, but it is not clear how serious it is, or if you feel uneasy and concerned about the student:

  • During Business Hours: Contact Jimmy Kane from HKS’ Student Support Services at 617-495-8935 to strategize and triage student support.
  • After Hours: Contact CAMHS Cares at 617-495-2042 to connect the student to mental health support.


If you are not concerned for anyone’s immediate safety, but the student is having significant academic or personal issues and could use some support, review the resources listed on page 8 and offer to connect the student to the office that will best support them.

If you are unsure, refer the student to meet with Jimmy Kane from Student Support Services.

Wellness checks

A wellness check is a consultative process that exemplifies the partnership between the Harvard Kennedy School Dean of Student’s Office and faculty and staff in responding to student needs. If you have not heard from a student for some time and you or others are concerned about their safety or well-being, it may be necessary to initiate a wellness check. This process typically begins with contacting the student’s emergency contact and may involve enlisting the assistance of HUPD or local police.

Once you recognize that it has been some time since you have heard from the student, it is helpful to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it typical that the student would not reply to emails for some time?
  • When was the last time you heard from or physically saw the student?
  • Does the student have a history of being out of contact?
  • Are there other community members (peers, colleagues, etc.) that might be in touch with the student?
  • Have others expressed concern about the student?
  • What outreach have you tried already—emails, calls, leaving notes, using department means (Slack, messaging app, etc.)? Have you tried multiple means to connect?
  • Are there any mental or physical health concerns that you are aware of?
  • Does the student live alone or with others?

Initial outreach to the student may come from a member of the department or Harvard Kennedy School. If a student does not respond to faculty or departmental outreach, it may be necessary to consult with Harvard Kennedy School Senior Associate Dean for Degree Programs & Student Affairs Debbie Isaacson for support and to initiate a wellness check.

Contact Harvard Kennedy School Degree Programs & Student Affairs

Departmental staff, faculty, or other community members may email Senior Associate Dean for Degree OPrograms & Student Affairs Debbie Isaacson at or call at 617-496-8382 to request a wellness check for a student. The Dean of Students is available to assist a faculty or staff member to send a message that expresses the urgency and initiates the wellness check process.


Emergency Resources

Counseling and Mental Health Hotlines

  • CAMHS Cares Line: 617-495-2042
    • 24-hour access line that allows students (or those concerned about a student) to speak with a licensed counselor
  • SHARE Hotline: 617-495-9100
    • 24/7 confidential hotline for all Harvard community members who have been impacted by sexual assault, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination

Support for Faculty & Staff

Harvard Kennedy School Resources

  • Degree Programs and Student Affairs
    • Debbie Isaacson, Senior Associate Dean for Degree Programs & Student Affairs, 617-496-8382
    • Amy Davies, Assistant Dean for Student Services & Programs, 617-495-1337
    • Jimmy Kane, Senior Associate Director for Student Support Services, 617-495-8935
    • Carol Finney, MPA/ID Program Director, 617-495-7799
    • Emma Heffern, MPA Programs Director, 617-496-4312
    • Cate Lagueux, MPP Program Director, 617-496-1100
    • Nicole Tateosian, PhD Programs Director, 617-495-1190
    • Melissa Wojciechowski St. John, Senior Director of Student Services, 617-495-0860
  • HKS Office of Diversity Inclusion and Belonging
  • HKS Title IX Resource Coordinators

University Resources

Additional Community Resources