Early this afternoon, American study abroad student Amanda Knox was freed from Italian prison, as the Italian Court overturned their original ruling that she was guilty of murdering her roommate during their study abroad experience in Perugia, Italy (2007).
Regardless of what your opinion is on the outcome this case, my mind began considering what will happen if Amanda Knox decides to return to university. I can imagine this would be an incredibly challenging transition, as she would not only be adjusting back into life outside of prison, but also into life that is most likely going to continue to include media and public scrutiny. How would she even begin to navigate her way back into a campus community where students, faculty, and staff alike could very well disapprove of her being there? What if you, as a student affairs professional did not agree with her being there? The question I consider is what would be our level of responsibility as student affairs professionals be to ensure that a student like Amanda Knox would have an effective transition back into a campus community? It doesn’t seem possible that we could treat her as a typical new student- her past would have to be a consideration in the resources we extend her way and the programs and activities we steer in her direction.
It seems that Amanda Knox is a leading example of the importance in considering the “whole student” in our work in student affairs. She has a past, just like our other students, and her identity in many ways has been shaped by this past (though I am sure she did not want it to). It is our responsibility to try and understand how this past and this identity shape the student that she will be and how she will learn and grow in a university setting. Without understanding these two elements, it seems we will miss the mark in ensuring that she, or any student like her, experiences the valuable development that takes place during a student’s time in higher education.