September 12, 2010

Univ. Hosts Forum for Mental Health, Safety

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On Friday, the University held the first Caring Community Forum of the semester in Goldwin Smith Hall, continuing the series from last semester focusing on campus health. The forum on Friday focused on moving forward with mental health initiatives and the redesigning of the bridge barriers.“The most time-frame efficient policy is continuing the fencing,” Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73 said to the filled auditorium. “We want to extend the fencing but have it be less obnoxious, quite frankly.”Murphy reiterated the repeated point of the administration that mental health initiatives have been stepped up considerably in light of last semester’s tragedies. Murphy brought up several of these new implementations, including the “Real Students, Reel Stories” film that was shown during Orientation Week. The film showcased numerous students, campus leaders and administrators describing life at Cornell and explaining what incoming freshmen can expect in their next four years. One scene shows President David Skorton admitting that he failed a class at one point in his own undergraduate career, an example of how Murphy says the film can ameliorate some freshman fears.“It was a wonderful introduction to Cornell,” Murphy said of the film. Murphy noted that the University is “purposely not putting it on the web,” as they hope to use it in coming years.    Murphy also discussed the hiring of Boston-based architecture firm Office dA for building the bridge barriers. Architect Nader Tehrani of the firm will work with both University and city committees for a “long-term solution,” Murphy said. The “solution” is expected to be considerably more aesthetically pleasing than the metal fences that currently cover the bridges, while still serving the same “prevention” purposes.Murphy explained that the campus’s variety of bridges — pedestrian, vehicle and pedestrian/vehicle hybrids — will require different kinds of barriers.At the end of Murphy’s talk, the floor was opened to discussion and questions from the audience. Diagrams of all seven of the campus bridges were displayed at the front of the room, which included history, physical design, and height above the water.Isaac Taitz ’11 and Jayson Jones ’11, vice-president and president of Cornell Minds Matter, respectively, were present at the forum, and questioned University Architect Gilbert Delgado about the usefulness of a bridge-beautification contest their group organized last semester.“We’ll be interested in looking at the student competition admissions,” Delgado said. “We’re going to begin looking at three different alternatives for the three types of bridges.”After the presentation, Jones noted that the forum was useful, but that more students could have benefitted from the issues discussed.“It’s unfortunate that many students weren’t aware it was taking place,” Jones said of the forum. “It wasn’t long enough to sustain discussion.”Jones also emphasized his club’s commitment to “improving mental health on campus,” and expressed his belief that more students should get involved with groups such as Cornell Minds Matter and EARS that promote campus health.

Original Author: Brendan Doyle