“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.
Cornell Minds Matter and project team Design and Tech Initiative collaborated to create an “anti-hackathon” where students would focus on solving issues related to mental health from a tech perspective while also destressing and unwinding.
The first time my boyfriend and I talked about the definition of love, we were in a New York City apartment. The summer was humid and scented with moss, and in a crowded kitchen, we talked about what love means — argued about it, really. We quickly realized this word required a definition neither of us could grasp — a concept simultaneously as expansive as the city awake around us, yet as narrow as the mortar between brick walls. We haven’t talked about that definition in a while, but I hear it discussed all the time around me, in cafés, in classrooms, in libraries. And as Valentine’s Day comes around, there emerges a widening rift between those who are lonely and those who are not, those who are cuffed and those who are eating ice cream alone in their bed, those who are happy and those who are heartbroken.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the accessibility and quality of student mental health services continue to be of high interest to the Cornell community. Written recommendations, like those submitted by the student-led Mental Health Taskforce, and ongoing discussions amongst campus stakeholders, like those facilitated by the Coalition on Mental Health, continue to highlight ways in which we can improve services and better support students. A recurring theme is that student demand for counseling services exceeds the possible support Counseling and Psychological Services can provide. While more than 22 percent of Cornell students used CAPS services in the last academic year, CAPS reports that for students seeking individual counseling, they aim to schedule first appointments within two weeks with wait times increasing even further during periods of high demand. The wait to see a counselor for individual counseling is a significant barrier to receiving high-quality care in a timely manner for many students.
I’ve been waking up these past few days with the same strange, rare feeling — I am at Cornell and feeling motivated.
I call it the “beginning-of-the-semester high.” Anyone who is a human and studies at Cornell knows what it is: that feeling at the beginning of every semester when everything still feels possible, productive and hopeful. I’ve seen my friends (and myself) suddenly have the urge to make an omelet for breakfast and spend more than 20 seconds picking out the day’s outfit, then take the longer, more nature-filled route to the first lecture. Time and time again, I hear friends setting goals around this time of the semester, saying things like “I’ll go to class more often” or “I’ll coordinate chores with my housemates” or “I’ll try to cook more this semester.”
It’s strange how there’s a period of time when we suddenly feel like our lives are put together. Maybe it’s the freshness of a new beginning, or the promise of a rare week with no tests, but something in the air is different. Whatever it is, I like it.
From improving cooking skills to learning how to knit, about 200 Cornell staff in the Johnson Graduate School of Management participated in a series of wellness workshops over the break to practice self-care.