The Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) is an important resource for many students on campus, providing many undeniably vital services, but the CWC can be underwhelming to some students and downright useless or uncomfortable to others.
It will not come as a surprise to students who live on campus or have sought services from the CWC in the past to hear that the services offered are extremely limited. Only short, episodic counseling is provided, students may only consult with a doctor one day a week and certain medications which may be crucial to students’ academic success are not allowed to be prescribed on campus.
A recent survey was sent out to students on the forum from the CWC representative Andrew Blackowiak, a fourth-year student, in an attempt to gauge student feeling towards the staff of the CWC. The questions on the survey specifically asked about the front desk staff and the nurse practitioner, who changes year to year.
An important question included in Blackowiak’s survey asked respondents if they felt fully informed about any diagnosis they received from the CWC before they left. Responses to this particular question will indicate a key element in the competence of the CWC’s diagnosing staff, as it is absolutely essential that any person know the full implications of any diagnosis they are given.
Participants were polled about comfort levels in relationship to the staff and asked for their feelings on the respectfulness of staff towards gender identity.
“Do you feel that your gender was respected while seeing the Nurse Practitioner?” Was a survey question followed by “Yes”, “No”, and “Other” options. Similar questions were asked about the front desk personnel and student comfort with the people who interact directly with students when making appointments or checking in.
“Once I’ve compiled the responses, I’ll be presenting them to Dr. Fisher in preparation for a potential gender diversity training for the CWC,” Blackowiak wrote in the email sent to the students signed up for the forum, elaborating earlier in the email that students should only respond if they have had experiences with the CWC staff this semester.
It could be argued that since common decency and respecting each person’s gender identity are such large components of New College’s culture, that students should be able to expect their gender identity to be respected by anyone on campus – most especially in places like the CWC where students may feel more vulnerable.
The issue of gender diversity training for CWC staff has been present in the minds of the student body. In last month’s Vision Workshop pertaining to the future of New College, students repeatedly brought up the CWC and potential, much needed improvements. Volanta Peng, a second-year student who attended the workshop, was particularly adamant about the CWC improvements.
“[We need] full-time psychiatrists and doctors,” they wrote on a sticky note that was added to a board of ideal improvements. “CWC equipped to deal with the needs of the students.”
Other members of the brainstorming group with Peng described an increase in gender and race sensitivity training for CWC staff and also for Metz employees who interact with students, citing the importance of sensitivity towards everyone. Another issue the participants of the workshop raised with the CWC’s method of mental health care was the directing of students to outside facilities which students may not have the transportation abilities or funds to access for long-term treatment.
The problem pointed out to students both at the workshop and those of the same opinions that were voiced there was that the CWC does not receive enough funding to provide long-term care or full-time access to doctors or psychiatric services. This leaves the question: why is student health such an under-funded aspect of campus life? Should this issue be a priority moving forward? The answers are unclear, but perhaps in the near future the administration and CWC staff will use student responses as guidance in transforming the capabilities of the New College students support systems.
Students can find the Survey mentioned in this article at https://goo.gl/forms/ijYe0kEwQF0C96ly1