At Thursday’s Student Assembly meeting, President Martha Pollack and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, fielded questions and gave updates on various initiatives and revealed plans for the future, including an all-new “festival of ideas” on Roosevelt Island.
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.
During a conversation this summer with a group of MIT students I met through my Cambridge internship, we stumbled into how both of our schools have issues with mental health services. It was then that I heard about their Student Support Services, abbreviated as all college programs are by its students to “S-cubed.”
From what I could gather from the MIT website and pestering the students I knew, the student service grants extensions on exams, homework or any school assignment that students need, as well as works with them to grant extended leaves. According to students I talked to, one of its most striking features is that they ask very few questions when granting minor extensions and operate under a system of trust — assuming the best of the academic integrity of its students. The questions they do ask are centered on getting a general idea of why the students are calling the support center and ensuring their safety. They are encouraged to call for physical or mental health reasons, like waking up sick the day of an exam, the sudden appearance of a depressive episode, extreme anxiety or even going through a tough breakup with a significant other.
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.