November 11, 2010

Student Assembly Passes Mental Health Resolution

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Cramming for more than three prelims in the same four-day period may be a thing of the past, thanks to Resolution 40, which the Student Assembly unanimously passed Thursday, calling for faculty’s continued commitment to mental health.

The resolution, which is headed to the Faculty Senate for approval, will allow students to move prelims or papers when they have three or more assignments, each worth 20 percent or more of the class’s final grade, within a 96-hour period. The resolution also asks faculty to consider a student’s personal circumstances and extracurricular commitments.

Though the administration responded to last year’s suicides by increasing counseling and building the fences, Roneal Desai ’13, sponsor of the resolution, said that the increased mental health initiatives after last year’s string of tragedies— including expanded counseling and fences along the gorges — are measures which help prevent suicide, as opposed to mitigating the causes of mental health crises in the first place.

“I think the University’s response to the mental health crisis was retroactive,” Desai said. “Extending the hours of EARS and CAPS doesn’t prevent these situations from happening, while this resolution is proactively trying to reduce the volume and intensity of mental health [cases] before they occur.”

After passing the resolution, members of the S.A. broke down tables and put away chairs to make room for the Cornell Caring Community Celebration, which took place immediately after the meeting. Desai said that he proposed the amendment on the same day so that it would coincide with the Caring Community Celebration. 400 students were in attendance, according to Desai.

Jennifer Kay ’14, who chaired the event, said that she hoped that the event would be positive effort at improving general student morale, distinct from the Lift Your Spirits event that took place in the spring, which was a direct response to last year’s string of suicides.

“We thought it … would promote idea that there’s a community at Cornell that cares about individual well-being,” she said. “The S.A. cares incredibly about the well-being of the students they represent.”

The Cornell Caring Community Celebration was created by Natalie Raps ’12 in a resolution she passed at the beginning of the year. She said she was happy that the event and the passage of Resolution 40 managed to coincide.

“It was a great way to culminate the hard work of the Student Assembly while also bringing all students together,” Raps said.

Fredrika Loew ’12 lauded the passage of the resolution, though she spent Thursday afternoon in the library studying for prelims. She said that if the resolution had been passed last spring, it would have saved her from a particularly stressful 96 hours, during which she studied for three prelims and drafted a group essay. To top it off, she received a call from her mom, informing her that her dog had died.

“I don’t think everyone can handle that,” she said. “If you’re getting a lot of pressure and you’re not doing well, it would definitely be extremely stressful to even just maintain your grade.”

There is a lot to be discussed about the issue as it passed along to the faculty for approval. Dean of Students Kent Hubbell ’69 said he hopes that the faculty keep the student’s concerns in mind as they address the issue.

“The faculty have complete control over the content and schedule of their courses,” he said. “We hope faculty will help engage in a discussion of how they can create a better study and course environment for students.”

Original Author: Juan Forrer