University News

UCS to prioritize sexual assault policy, mental health

Corporation accountability, faculty diversity other major council focuses

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Undergraduate Council of Students will focus on sexual assault and mental health resources, Corporation accountability and faculty diversity this semester, UCS leaders told The Herald.

Following the Sexual Assault Task Force’s release of its interim report at the end of last semester, UCS aims to push the administration to apply the report’s short-term recommendations to the Code of Student Conduct, said UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15. While UCS will continue to support the task force’s efforts to collect feedback through undergraduate open forums, it will also look to offer smaller avenues such as written feedback and one-on-one sessions with a task force member, Srinivasan said. “Especially with an issue like sexual assault, walking into an open forum isn’t the most comfortable or the most safe for a lot of people,” she added.

Justice Gaines ’16, an undergraduate representative on the task force, said the group seeks student voices to support “anything in the final report that’s controversial” in order to encourage Corporation approval of interim report recommendations. He added that the task force hopes to draft a final report to be released in March.

Katherine Byron ’15, another undergraduate representative on the task force, said UCS help was “instrumental” and “exceeded expectations,” adding that Srinivasan was a “force of nature” in her commitment to support the task force’s goals. Moving forward, UCS can help publicize information so “people aren’t necessarily slipping through the cracks because they didn’t open that one email,” Byron said.

The council will also continue working to expand discussions on mental health “to a broader sphere” this semester, said Sazzy Gourley ’16, UCS vice president and chair of the UCS Outreach and Advocacy committee. Last semester, UCS held a campus-wide open forum on mental health and appointed students to the Mental Health Community Council, he said. The council also released an op-ed in The Herald about the need for more mental health resources drafted by Gourley and Dolma Ombadykow ’17, an MHCC representative and chief operating officer of the Brown chapter of Let’s Erase the Stigma, a student group advocating mental health awareness.

Gourley said UCS will “push administrators to be more responsive to student concerns about mental health policies and resources, specifically in working with the appointed students to the MHCC in ensuring more student feedback … is incorporated into discussions.” The council will aim to use student focus groups as forums for attendees “to share their experiences with medical leave and other leave-taking policies,” he said, adding that feedback from these forums will likely inform MHCC discussions and policy changes.

The council will also work with Counseling and Psychological Services to update its website to include employee information and feedback forms, Gourley said. UCS Student Activities Chair E-Soo Kim ’15 said the council has spoken with the Office of Admission about incorporating a mental health forum into the agenda of A Day on College Hill to raise awareness of various health and wellness resources on campus.

UCS will seek to improve Corporation accountability by increasing student-Corporation engagement, Srinivasan said. UCS collaborates with the Student Power Initiative, a student group that advocates adding a student representative to the Corporation, to propose measures such as student body focus groups for Corporation members to “funnel direct student feedback” on major campus issues.

Srinivasan added that UCS will also work to formalize student involvement in the selection process of young alumni positions on the Corporation. Young alums are “considered the closest link between the Corporation and the student body” in terms of age and culture, and two young alumni positions will be vacant at the end of the semester, she said. After discussions with the Corporation, UCS also hopes to appoint students as regular contributors — but not as voting members — to University committees such as the University Resources Committee or the College Curriculum Council, she added.

To address issues of faculty diversity, UCS will release its Diversity Action Plan at the beginning of the semester, Gourley said. Council members worked closely with Liza Cariaga-Lo, vice president for academic development, diversity and inclusion, to collect student input through focus groups at the end of last semester and hope to repeat the process as the plan takes form, he said. UCS will push administrators to gather “input from a broader range of student organizations and communities,” he added.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that UCS will release the Diversity Action Plan. In fact, the University will release the plan. The Herald regrets the error.

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  • HaroldAMaio

    —Brown chapter of Let’s Erase the Stigma

    You will erase it by declaring it?

    What an impertinence.

    Harold A. Maio, retired mental health editor
    khmaio@earthlink.net