February 22, 2011

Student Assembly Presidential Candidates Debate Strategies to Boost Mental Health

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Candidates for Student Assembly President Adam Nicoletti ’12, S.A. vice president of finance, and Natalie Raps ’12, S.A. vice president of communications, agree: The S.A. needs to do more to bolster the mental health of the student body.Yet at Tuesday’s largely amicable S.A. presidential debate, subtle differences emerged as to how each candidate would achieve this end.Nicoletti said that since “we lose people when they aren’t in the community,” the S.A. should reach out to students “to let them know they exist.” Additionally, to bolster mental health on campus, the S.A. should be proactive in bringing various student groups together for discussion.  Nicoletti later explained that “unifying [student organizations] by talking about the issues they find important” would lead to “cathartic discussion” between groups.Raps touted her role in creating the Cornell Caring Community Celebration, which brought students together and called for the S.A. to “bring issues of mental health to the forefront, not after tragedy happened … but before … but before they become a problem.”Raps later elaborated that she plans to push the administration to adopt a mental health day to break up the spring semester, which she said Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have already implemented.Saying there were “lots of ways to raise morale on campus and let students de-stress,” Raps also highlighted her role in pushing for a campus pub. She said this would “bring the community back and bring student life together.”Nicoletti criticized Raps’ strategy, calling his approach “more realistic and more effective.”“She wants to get groups together and come to a party, but that’s not really initiating people to talk to each other,” Nicoletti said. “At a party, I’m just going to talk to the same people I know.”Raps disagreed with his characterization. “I don’t really consider the Caring Community Celebration a party,” Raps said. “It’s more of a way to get students to not only interact, but to deal with mental health issues and to bring [mental health] to the forefront of a conversation.”“The biggest part of the platform is that I am responsible, I’m experienced and I’m a good leader and I’ll be able to inspire the S.A. to take real action,” Nicoletti said, calling his platform “not about having a flashy campaign.”“To quote Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility,” Raps said. She said she was “looking to address issues that the administration puts on the back burner.”The S.A. elections will be on Mar. 1-3.

Original Author: Jeff Stein