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Mental and Behavioral Health

To address the rising demand for mental health services, University of Wisconsin Madison released an online mental health service program called SilverCloud. The program is a self-guided, interactive program that provides students with behavioral therapy techniques that can help them address concerns related to anxiety, depression, stress and body image.

This week, the University of Pennsylvania College Dean’s Advisory Board, in conjunction with Penn Wellness, held an event  that focused on ways to improve mental wellness on campus. “Deconstructing the Penn Face” featured six undergraduate panelists who shared their individual experiences with social pressures and how they found ways to cope.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments last week in a case that centers on whether colleges and universities can be held responsible for a student’s suicide. The family of Han Duy Nguyen, an MIT graduate student who killed himself in 2009, sued the school for wrongful death, claiming MIT employees should have taken steps to prevent him from taking his own life. Martin Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association, discussed the issue with WBURsaying the case is being watched closely by the higher education community nationwide for any legal precedents that might come from it.

College mental health centers across the country continue to see an increase in demand for services, a change attributed more to students’ increased willingness to seek help, than an increase in prevalence of mental health issues. According to the UC Berkeley student newspaper, in 2016, 16 percent of students used the counseling center, a proportion that is 4 percent higher than the national average. The school’s Counseling and Psychological Services believes this is a result of their efforts to promote and discuss mental health resources on campus. The Texas Christian University Counseling and Mental Health Center sees 10 to 15 percent of the student body each year.  Yvonne Giovanis, assistant director of the TCU Wellness Center said, “I feel like there’s more students who are open to acknowledging that they’re struggling.”

Florida State University President John E. Thrasher, who last week announced an indefinite ban on fraternity and sorority activities, said in an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education this week that some parents were angered by his decision. Thrasher’s actions follow the death of  Matthew Ellis who died during an initiation into his fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi.

According to the UCLA student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, the school’s Counseling and Psychological Services are understaffed and underfunded. In the fall quarter of last year, there was a 17 percent increase in students requesting mental health services compared to the previous year. Additionally, since 2016,  an average of one therapist per month has left the school, often for better-paying private sector jobs. Despite these issues, CAPS has had difficulty securing additional funding from the Student Fee Advisory Committee.

To help students reduce anxiety, depression and stress, Yale University and the New Haven community have worked together to promote student wellness through meditation and yoga with community organizations now offering free classes at the University.  Yale’s Silliman College offers the Wellness Initiative, a program that includes several weekly yoga and meditation classes.

In a series entitled, “Exploring Sensitive Language,” Penn State University student newspaper The Daily Collegian highlights college student mental health and the language sensitivities around this topic.

Diversity and Inclusion

Kansas State University is closing the campus and cancelling all classes for two hours on Tuesday to encourage the community to attend an event promoting diversity. Participants will first take part in a Unity Walk to Anderson Hall, the main administrative building, and then participate in KSUnite, a diversity program to discuss inclusion, race, and race relations. This is in response to a steady stream of racially charged incidents that have occurred on campus this semester.

Syracuse University student newspaper The Daily Orange is joining ProPublica’s Documenting Hate project to track incidents of bias and hate on campus.

In a statement signed by more than 75 student government presidents from across the country, University of Virginia student council president Sarah Kenny called on political leaders to do more to combat hate. The statement read, “We request and we require your full dedication to this collective work of fighting white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and all others forms of hate, even and especially when such action might prove challenging.”

Last week, a federal judge ordered Maryland to remedy the lack of investment in the state’s historically black colleges and universities. The judge declared that the state must establish a set of new, unique and high-demand programs at each historically black institution. Since 2006, a coalition of alumni from Maryland’s four historically black colleges have been locked in litigation with the state to dismantle what they say are vestiges of racial segregation.

Sexual Health

In October, the Trump administration released a new rule making it easier for employers with religious objections to obtain an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate. As religious colleges face uncertainty over the changes, US News asked several catholic institutions about their plans for contraceptive coverage.  Villanova University, in Pennsylvania, said they have no plans to change current contraceptive coverage, which is currently provided. The University of Notre Dame, a critic of the contraceptive mandate, announced in October that it would drop birth control coverage for employees.  However, the Atlantic reports that this week Notre Dame announced a reversal of that decision, that faculty, students, and staff will have coverage for contraceptives through their university-sponsored insurance plans. The Atlantic questions why Notre Dame reversed its decision. The administration said it was out of respect for the diversity of its community.

According to new data released by Eastern Kentucky University Student Health Services, in the 276 screening tests performed by student health from August to November of this year, 51 were positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea, a 10 to 15 percent increase from last year’s STI rates.

Free Speech

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Adam Falk, president of Williams College, defended his decision to not to offer the blogger and self-described white supremacist John Derbyshire the opportunity to speak on the Williams’ campus. Falk wrote, “The problem is that provocateurs such as Derbyshire, Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopolous… have few policy ideas to offer, conservative or otherwise, and little or nothing interesting to say about critical issues such as health care, foreign policy or the tax code. Instead they’re obsessed with provoking outrage by demeaning whole populations and challenging their right to be on our campuses or in our country.”


New York University announced the launch of the NYU Veterans and Military Resource Center that will streamline campus support services for veterans. The Center will serve as a single hub for coordinating services, assistance, and connections for NYU veterans.

Greek Life

In the University of Maryland student newspaper the Diamondback, freshman Nate Rogers argues that Florida State University’s recent ban on greek life won’t stop hazing and alcohol related-deaths.

A student-led Interfraternity Council at the University of Michigan has suspended social activities at the school’s fraternities amid allegations of hazing and sexual misconduct. The council governs most fraternity chapters at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Interfraternity Council’s executive vice president, Alec Mayhan, said in a statement that the council holds members to a high standard, and is aware that some in its community “have not been living up to these standards.”

Ten additional Penn State University fraternity members were charged Monday in the hazing death of Timothy Piazza. With the help of the FBI, investigators were able to recover deleted surveillance camera footage recorded inside a fraternity house. The footage helped investigators to piece together the final hours of Tim Piazza’s life, including that he had been given at least 18 alcoholic drinks over 82 minutes.

Tufts University officials released the results of a yearlong review of Greek life Monday. The review found that more than half of the sororities and fraternities on campus violated policy on alcohol abuse and sexual harassment. In response to the review, the school has closed one fraternity and banned another for a decade. Several other organizations are facing probation and suspensions.

Texas State University has suspended the activities of greek life indefinitely after a fraternity pledge died on Sunday night. Denise M. Trauth, the university’s president, said in a written statement that a review would be made of all fraternity and sororities on campus. The review, Ms. Trauth said, will include “recommendations for reinstating fraternity and sorority chapters that demonstrate a commitment to the core values of Texas State and the ideas established by their respective national organizations.”

Sexual Health

The University of Notre Dame’s insurance plan will no longer cover contraceptionfor students and employees. The Catholic university’s decision follows new regulations on the Affordable Care Act issued in October by the Trump administration that weaken the Obamacare birth control mandate.

College Affordability

New York University announced that it will offer free tuition next semester to about 50 students from Puerto Rico whose studies were interrupted by Hurricane Maria. In addition to tuition, admitted students will receive free housing, health insurance and a meal plan.< In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Jason Delisle, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Preston Cooper, a research analyst at the American Enterprise Institute argue for a different interpretation of a new report from the think tank New America. The report led several news outlets to conclude that selective public universities reduced the share of low-income students they enroll. Using the same data, time period and set of schools as the New America report, Delisle and Cooper found that there has been hardly any change in the share of low-income students at selective public universities. According to their analysis, different income groups’ access to selective public colleges has been stable across the years covered in the study.

Guns on Campus

Texas Christian University was locked down Tuesday after a shot was fired due to a dispute by two employees of the TCU shuttle service. The alert was lifted later in the morning after police located a suspect.

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