After extensive review, taskforces and student input, Cornell Health’s mental health reforms went into effect with the new semester — featuring free sessions, easier scheduling and a greater variety of care options.
As the fall semester begins, we at Cornell Health are excited to introduce a new approach to our delivery of mental health services. Our goal is to support undergraduate, graduate and professional students in thriving at Cornell and achieving their academic and life goals. In order to provide increased access to mental health care for our students, we now offer free, 25-minute, in-person counseling appointments that often can be scheduled as soon as the same day. These appointments focus on meeting the student’s immediate needs, and making a plan for next steps, when needed. Students no longer schedule a brief assessment phone appointment as the first step to receiving care and instead can speak with a counselor in person as the need arises.
It goes without saying that mental health is a major conversation on campus. Currently, some of the mental health services offered at Cornell include Let’s Talk and CAPS, which are offered at Cornell Health, and EARS, a student-run organization. While all are extremely important services, all are arguably “downstream” mental health services. Since they are “downstream,” they can only be utilized by individuals who are currently having to address their mental health issues. There are very few specific services in place that attempt to dispel systems that can lead to mental health issues.
Last month, the Cornell administration announced a review of our campus’s mental health system. Throughout the last year, Cornell Graduate Students United has campaigned for just such a review. Over 900 graduate students signed our petition asking for an external review of the system, in addition to other demands, and we are glad the administration has finally acknowledged the mental health crisis on campus. Whether or not the proposed mental health review succeeds, however, depends on its structure. As it stands, there is almost no public information on the administration’s proposed mental health review.
The cost to attend Cornell University has skyrocketed each year. The tuition for the 2019-2020 academic year is $56,550, a $6,000 increase from the $50,712 I paid for my freshman year in 2016-2017. This price tag is the tuition alone, which does not consider other costs to attend Cornell, such as the student activity fee, housing, dining and much more. The total cost to attend an endowed college at this institution will amount to around $75,000 for the upcoming academic year. At a place where costs stack up higher each year, fitness memberships should not be an added burden placed on students.
“Hey hey! Ho ho! Cornell’s greed has got to go!” could be heard from the courtyard between Uris Hall and Statler Hotel Thursday afternoon as graduate students gathered to express discontent with the University’s mental health services, particularly services for graduate students.
Warning: The following content contains sensitive material about mental health and depression. Cornell’s response to six student suicides between 2009 and 2010 was the installation of nets over Ithaca’s gorges. These nets — monuments of the mental health crisis at Cornell — overshadow both Ithaca’s natural beauty and Cornell’s stellar research infrastructure. They remind us that something is wrong on Cornell’s campus. Six years after starting my astrophysics Ph.D., I still remember the first time I saw the nets.
One of my Arts and Sciences Ambassador colleagues, Jady, and I casually conversed in Klarman Hall recently while checking in families and prospective students into an info session. Jady recounted an experience she had as panelist at another info session,where one audience member raised his hand to ask the panelists, “What’s your favorite location on campus?” Jady opted to answer the question and said, “I really love the bridges!”
Instantly, the mood of the auditorium got gloomy, and the room filled with an eerie, tense silence, she told me. One of the other panelists, an advising dean, gave her a death stare, followed by him shaking his head and covertly waving his hands to Jady to change the topic. When I first heard this, I found nothing controversial or anomalous with her response to the audience member, because I knew that Jady was referring to the beauty and marvel of Cornell’s bridges; Jady told me she assumed the audience knew this as well. However, we both eventually realized that bridges also have connotations of suicide and mental health, two very prominent concerns among current and prospective Cornellians.
“A glaring omission in the two posted documents is any reference — either in findings or recommendations — regarding the capacity of the CAPS counseling and psychological staff to meet the rising demand of students for services,” MacLeod and Hack wrote.