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Mental and Behavioral Health

After University of Texas President Gregory Fenves announced the school would be  subsidizing counseling fees early this year, the Counseling and Mental Health Center immediately saw a spike in demand for their services. In January and February, 1,733 students reached out to CMHC seeking mental health services, compared to only 1,203 students last January and February, a 44 percent increase. According to Marla Craig, CMHC associate director for clinical services, counseling appointments have been filling up more quickly since the announcement, which may lead to a longer wait time to see a counselor. To accommodate this increase, CMHC has expanded options for group counseling and workshops in addition to individual counseling, but does not have plans to hire additional counselors due to budget constraints.

At Loyola University in New Orleans, twenty-five percent of the student body seeks out on-campus counseling, a ratio measurably higher than the national average of around 15 to 20 percent. However, the University Counseling Center still faces obstacles, including the myth about long wait-times that keep some students from seeking out help. According to Alicia Bourque, director of the University Counseling Center, “The myth is that it takes four weeks to get a counseling appointment. That’s just not true because a student can come in at any time and receive a walk-in appointment, a triage, do case management or speak with the protocol counselor,” . “It could even be 3 o’clock in the morning on a Tuesday and students can call the UCC (University Counseling Center) counselor on-call and have access to services that way.”

In a Daily Nebraskan op-ed, University of Nebraska Lincoln freshman Lauren Tritch argues that as the number of UNL students with mental illness and those who have attempted suicide rises, the university’s Counseling and Psychological Service does has not kept pace, and does not do enough to accommodate struggling students. Tritch does not believe that offering only four free CAPS sessions is enough to create a lasting impact on student mental health. In a counterpoint op-ed, UNL freshman Sydney Ozuna, writes that, “While CAPS may not be perfect, or work for everyone, it is a useful, necessary and altogether positive resource for anyone in need of mental assistance.”

The University of California Los Angeles has pledged to “cut the burden of depression in half” by 2050 and eliminate it by the end of the century, starting by treating its own students. In a study conducted as part of the Depression Grand Challenge – an interdisciplinary research project that adopts the popular “grand challenge” format to solve major social or scientific problems – UCLA researchers have used an online program to measure the anxiety and depression levels of nearly 4,000 students. In the program, volunteer students take a screening test that categorizes them on the basis of mild to severe depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts. The university then uses those classifications to route students to appropriate mental-health treatments. Michelle Craske, director of the university’s Anxiety and Depression Research Center, said that about 45 percent of the students screened since last year have been identified with at least mild levels of depression or anxiety, and about 23 percent of those students have used the campus counseling service. Craske says, that like many other college health centers, UCLA’s is “overwhelmed with demand” and that “students are needing more than they can get from the services provided”.

Last week, the University of Minnesota’s Council of Graduate Students passed a resolution calling on the administration to make mental health data readily available to all students in an annual report. The resolution outlines five areas to include wait time for students seeking treatment, prevalence of mental illnesses, statistics on suicide and crises, proportion of students referred to community care due to complex diagnoses or insurance limits and client satisfaction. COGS President Lauren Mitchell said there is a need for public documentation showing wait times for students seeking help as well as the ratio of counselors to students, which currently stands at one counselor for every 759 students – a data point that is only accessible by request.

Sona Chaudhary, a University of Maryland sophomore and opinion editor at the student newspaper, the Diamondback, argues in an op-ed that though the Counseling Center offers free psychological services and is advertised as an open resource for the community, too many barriers remain for students seeking help. Chaudhary highlighted the work of Scholars Promoting and Revitalizing Care, a student group that recently brought to light the extensive wait times students face when trying to schedule a counseling appointment. According to Chaudhary, the backlog is too high for the counseling center staff to manage, and creates a competition for resources among students who need help.

Puvali Chatterjee, a UCLA student, writes in the Daily Bruin that in order to improve care for students, CAPS should decentralize its support resources and work with student groups to expand services. Students have raised concerns over inefficient appointment scheduling, what they perceive as ineffective methods of treatment and the yearly limit on counseling sessions. However, according to Chatterjee, CAPS has not improved because it is underfunded and understaffed. Chatterjee believes that by coordinating with student mental health groups such as the Resilience Peer Network, CAPs can expand services and be more accessible to students.

According to a 2015 NCAA survey, about 30 percent of student-athletes self-reported that they have been “intractably overwhelmed during the past month” and nearly 25 percent of student-athletes reported being exhausted “from the mental demands of their sport.” A 2014 NCAA report found that student-athletes are less likely to report issues with depression and anxiety than their non-athlete peers. At Northwestern University, CAPS staffers are working to change that. Courtney Albinson, associate director of sport psychology at the university, says that CAPS works with athletic teams upon request and that student-athletes can make individual appointments with sport psychologists to discuss anything from mental health issues to performance improvement.

The University of Texas is implementing more programs to address student wellness and mental health. Recently, UT added the Interpersonal Violence Peer Support (IVPS), and announced the school would subsidize mental health appointments. Kelly Soucy, director of Student Emergency Services, said the university also added two new programs to support students in the wake of trauma or emergencies this year. Soucy also said the food pantry and career closet helps students deal with food insecurities and provides necessities they might not be able to afford on their own.

The Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes emotional health and prevents suicide among young adults, announced that over 195 colleges and universities, representing more than two million students, are now participating in JED Campus. JED Campus is a nationwide initiative that helps colleges and universities assess and enhance their policies, programs and systems to support the emotional well-being of their students and reduce suicide and substance abuse.

Diversity and Inclusion

State Department data show that the number of visas issued to foreign students fell markedly last year. In the year ending in September 2017, the State Department issued 393,573 student visas, down 17% from the previous fiscal year and nearly 40% below the 2015 peak. The decline was particularly dramatic among Indian student visas, which decreased 28%. Some of the slide can be attributed to competition from other countries and less support for foreign study by some governments. But immigration attorneys and university officials say that Trump administration policies have made the U.S. a less desirable destination for foreigners, pointing to stricter scrutiny of those who do apply.

According to a new Stanford University study, instructors of online courses are nearly twice as likely to respond to comments from white male students than to those from any other race-gender combination. Researchers, in an attempt to determine whether there was racial or gender bias in online learning environments, randomly placed generic comments in discussion boards of 124 massive open online courses, under names that  suggested a gender and race or nationality – white, black, Indian, or Chinese. The courses were offered by an unnamed “major provider” in 2014, and the subjects included accounting, calculus, epidemiology, teaching, and computer programming.

Sexual Assault and Title IX

Jurors of a sexual assault case from Yale College returned a verdict of not guilty last week, after barely three hours of deliberations. The case hinged on the question of whether the complainant could have agreed to have sex with the defendant, Saifullah Khan on Halloween night in 2015, when the two found themselves in her dorm room after a night of drinking alcohol. The New York Times reported that the decision highlights the divide between the standards of sexual behavior trained in freshman orientation programs and campus brochures, and those that operate in courts of law. If the case had gone before Yale’s Committee on Sexual Misconduct, the outcome may have been different. Like many other schools across the US, the Yale committee uses a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, and its members are trained in a notion of consent where only “yes means yes.”

Sexual Health and Contraception

Kylie Harrington, a University of Southern California, argues in an op-ed in the Daily Trojan that USC  should follow example of the new California State Senate reproductive health bill that requires public colleges in the state to offer non-surgical abortion services in their student health centers. The bill would require all four-year universities in the UC and CSU systems to provide medical abortion, also known as the “abortion pill”, to students.  Harrington argues, “if USC truly cares about the health and well-being of its students, it should follow the example set by the UC system and move toward covering medication abortion in the Engemann Student Health Center.”

Free Speech

A new survey of more than 3,000 college students co-sponsored by the American Council on Education, the Charles Koch Foundation and the Stanton Foundation found that while most say they value freedom of expression, they also value inclusivity and wrestle with how to best balance the two.


Last year four fraternity pledges died in hazing-related incidents, all allegedly after drinking heavily at fraternity events. Though the number of hazing deaths in 2017 was high, it was not unprecedented. Similar numbers were recorded in 2008, 2012, and 2014. However, this year, the deaths received drastically increased media attention, and The Chronicle asks: Will any of this prompt real change?

Guns on Campus

In the Washington Post, Andrew Hamilton, the 16th president of New York University, writes that reversing the Dickey Amendment, which outlawed the use of federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funds “to advocate or promote gun control”, would be among the most powerful tools to foster effective legislative and administrative change in gun violence. In the aftermath of the passage of the 1996 Dickey Amendment, CDC funding for all research pertaining to gun violence and how to prevent it effectively disappeared. Hamilton wrote, “Without empirical data, we’re at a loss as to how exactly to resolve the argument about which ideas would prove most effective. And because the proposals are seen as opinions, rather than facts, they carry no more analytic or persuasive weight than the opinions of those who oppose such suggestions.”

College Affordability

The Wall Street Journal produced a video about the New York-based ASAP initiative, which helps students pay for higher education without the burden of debt. The ASAP program, which aims to lift students who are most likely to default up the economic ladder, was started 10 years ago.

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