Roughly one month ago, Rowan’s mental health services became the center of the university discourse. At the Student Government Association’s (SGA) senate meeting on Nov. 8., student voices were heard throughout the evening advocating for change. Earlier that day, students demonstrated for the exact same cause outside of Savitz Hall.
Since then, a group of student leaders from organizations such as the Rowan Progressives, Her Campus Rowan, the student senate and more, have been regularly meeting with administrative officials to discuss what they want to see on behalf of the student body.
After a month of deliberation, negotiating, advocacy and many meetings, student and faculty representatives are ready to report on what progress has been made to improve Rowan’s mental health resources and address student concerns.
Students and administrators alike agreed that there remains a long process ahead before the desired progress can be achieved. Accordingly, Nia Wade, a sophomore psychology major, felt that it was too early to say if meaningful progress was being made.
“The action we need to take would take time… but we shouldn’t be [moving] at a slow pace,” Student Body Senator-at-Large Raymond Wos, Jr. said.
Despite this, and despite the numerous logistical challenges, there remains a commitment towards doing what can be done.
“It’s all part of continuously improving, to be honest… but part of it is listening, so we’re doing that,” Wellness Center Director Scott Woodside said. “I think it’s unrealistic to say [we] can meet every student’s needs, but we’re sure as heck trying.”
Even so, student outlooks on the future for mental health services remain largely grounded in a sense of cautious optimism.
“Compared to previous years, Rowan is making meaningful progress to improve mental health resources,” Sean Rovins, a pre-health studies post-Baccalaureate student, said. “We won’t know until the spring semester if they commit to their plans, but I am hopeful. We’ll keep fighting for the resources we need until we get them.”
“I believe we are in the very early stages of making meaningful progress, but it’d be difficult to say that what we’ve gotten so far is at that level yet,” Ryan Clare, a fifth-year music composition major, said. “The dialogue we’ve been able to have with those in [the administration] is a good sign and I’m hopeful it’ll result in the change that students have been asking for.”
University Senate President Bill Freind explained some ways in which Rowan’s faculty and staff plan on implementing new strategies for addressing mental health at Rowan.
“One of the things that faculty will be doing, many of us have gone through QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training so that we can recognize students that are in crisis. We’re looking into incorporating, on our syllabi, lists of different mental health resources,” Freind said.
Freind is also the co-chair of the university’s well-being committee, which seeks to utilize initiatives like Rowan Thrive to spread awareness about well-being on campus.
“The message that we really need to get out is that mental health is not just about counseling and psychiatry,” Freind said. “Mental health is also about mental health in all of its facets: exercise, sleep, mindfulness. And we’re pushing this through the Rowan Thrive initiative, but we need to be doing a better job of that… and that’s something I’ve asked the student representatives for help with.”
For Wellness Center Director Scott Woodside, the idea of increasing access regarding the Wellness Center’s resources is at the heart of what, to him, needs to be done.
“We’re talking about doubling counselors and space,” Woodside said, “but it’s really [about increasing] access, and that’s gotta continue to improve. Especially if we keep adding students.”
During this process towards change, student leaders made the call to their peers to continue to persevere and keep advocating for the change that they want to see.
“Be ready to continue fighting for better conditions on campus,” Clare said. “We’re the ones paying for this university to operate and we need to make our voices heard when it’s not living up to its promises.”
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