President Martha E. Pollack ran through a laundry list of ongoing initiatives at the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly on Monday, including efforts to improve mental health, provide more assistance for international students and students with disabilities, and increase diversity of both the undergraduate and graduate student bodies.
This upcoming weekend, Cornell will host the fourth annual Ivy League Mental Health Conference, where delegates from all the Ivy League schools come together to discuss the state of mental health on our campuses. Considering Ivy League schools recently got slapped with a D or worse by the Ruderman Family Foundation for our leave of absence policies, there’s a sense of urgency in rectifying the mistakes we made. If we’re really among the best schools in the nation, it’s time we act like it. Cornell Minds Matter has been the driving force in organizing the conference, brainstorming, making calls, asking for funding. As a small part of the organization, I’ve gotten a first-hand view of the planning for the conference.
How did we all get to Cornell University? Top grades. A towering G.P.A. Add in a little bit of philanthropy. Insert one or two “exotic” experiences. Throw in a unique talent, bonus points for medal-winning debate, athletics or chess ability.
In the calm and quiet lecture halls and auditoriums, coughing fits exploded in 10-minute intervals. The sneezing and sniffles drowned out the professor’s voice. The unscrewing of water bottle caps echoed in my ears. Crumpled tissues overflowed the dorm trash bins. And before I knew it, I, too, was becoming a musician in this symphony.
Students weren’t the only ones left with questions after the administration sent out an email to students last week outlining plans for mental health reforms on campus. The Sophie Fund, an advocacy group focused on supporting mental health initiatives in Ithaca, called the plans “disappointing” in a posted response.
“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.
In an email to students on Wednesday night, vice president for student and campus life Ryan Lombardi outlined plans for sweeping reforms to student mental health services. Some students, however, questioned whether Lombardi’s promises would result in meaningful improvements to Cornell’s frayed mental health support system.
President Martha E. Pollack and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, spoke to the Student Assembly at Thursday’s meeting, focusing on the recent college admissions scandal, ongoing efforts to improve mental health on campus and diversity.
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.