Martha Pollack fields questions at Thursday's meeting of the Student Assembly.

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

Martha Pollack fields questions at Thursday's meeting of the Student Assembly.

September 5, 2019

Pollack Calls for ‘Holistic View’ of Mental Health, Introduces ‘Festival of Ideas’ on Roosevelt Island

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At Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting, President Martha Pollack and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, gave updates on various initiatives and revealed plans for the future, including an all-new “festival of ideas” on Roosevelt Island.

Among the initiatives discussed were the recent mental health reforms. On Aug. 27 from, Cornell Health Executive Director Dr. Kent Bullis announced the potential for students to sign up for free same-day counseling sessions, more flexibility in choosing a counselor, and a wider variety of care options. The external mental health review, which will take place this semester, will have its results released in the spring, Pollack said.

“We can’t stop now, we can’t just keep hiring staff,” Pollack said. “We really … need to be talking about mental health and student wellness very holistically.”

Pollack emphasized that “student wellness” included physical health, not just mental health. Soon, students would be able to schedule telehealth appointments with various specialists such as urologists and neurologists in New York City who weren’t available in Ithaca, and receive free food from the expanded food pantry, which would be available to all students, staff and faculty.

Pollack did not specify what other “student wellness” initiatives were planned for the future.

President Pollack and VP Lombardi spoke to Student Assemblymembers and the public during Thursday's S.A. meeting.

Michael Wenye Li / Sun Senior Photographer

President Pollack and VP Lombardi spoke to Student Assemblymembers and the public during Thursday’s S.A. meeting.

“Mental health, as we know, is a huge topic on this campus and across the country,” Pollack said. “Every meeting that I go with administrators, it’s on the agenda.”

Although she gave out few specifics, Pollack also introduced the “Festival of Ideas,” to be held in the fall of 2020 on Roosevelt Island in New York City, where Cornell Tech is located. The festival would be modeled after the Aspen Ideas Festival, held annually in Colorado by the Aspen Institute, which gathers “leaders from around the globe … to present and discuss the ideas and issues that both shape our lives and challenge our times.”

The festival would have “no defined label,” Pollack said, but would focus on “how does digital technology help human society, and how does it hurt human society.”