Nandita Mohan / Staff Photographer

GPSA meeting takes place in Bache Auditorium on January 29th, 2018.

January 30, 2018

President Pollack Addresses Mental Health, Presidential Task Force

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President Martha E. Pollack outlined steps the University is taking to address mental health issues, diversity and inclusion on campus at a GPSA meeting on Monday.

Pollack defended her decision to reject the establishment of an independent mental health task force, noting that the University is currently participating in an external review conducted by the JED Foundation, a nonprofit aimed towards youth suicide prevention.

The JED Foundation, Pollack said, visited campus over the summer and is producing a report that will be finalized this spring. Pollack offered to share the outcomes of this review with the public.

Both Cornell’s own reviews and other reviews identified three main problem areas, according to Pollack. These areas include increasing Counseling and Psychological Services staffing levels, investing in a more “comprehensive approach to support student well-being” and recruiting and retaining healthcare professionals, particularly underrepresented minorities.

These efforts, Pollack noted, are part of a continuing focus on mental health.

“We have this long-standing commitment to support students’ health, and we’re continually striving to improve,” Pollack said.

Breanne Kisselstein grad, co-chair of the GPSA Student Advocacy Committee, told The Sun that she was excited Pollack discussed the issue of mental health policy at the meeting.

“It’s been an issue that people have been bringing up … and it’s something that we’ve been trying to figure out how to work on,” she said. “People want more mental health initiatives for the graduate and professional students, so I’m glad she brought it up but I also hope we see real solutions soon.”

At the meeting, Pollack also discussed the progress of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate, which was implemented to address diversity and inclusion on campus after several racially-charged incidents last fall.

Kisselstein, who is a member of the campus experience subcommittee, told The Sun that the task force is making progress. Each subcommittee, she said, has already discussed how it will be run, when it will meet and which issues it will work on.

“[Pollack] told us [that] we’re on a timeline, we’re on a very tight timeline, it’s going to be really hard work, but she wants ideas,” she said. “And they don’t need to be perfect ─ we just need to be really creative and think of real solutions and then report them by May.”

In addition to the task force, Pollack listed three steps the university is taking in the area of diversity and inclusion.

The Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council both implemented a new diversity program before spring recruitment began, the university created a new diversity website and the Center for Teaching Innovation is assembling an online course to equip faculty with skills to teach in multicultural classrooms, Pollack said.

Additionally, Pollack emphasized the need for a clear consensual relationships policy, praised graduate and professional students for opposing a part of the recently-passed Congressional tax bill, and informed GPSA of a 40 percent funding increase and expanded eligibility requirements for the Student Child Care Grant program, which provides financial assistance for students’ childcare expenses.