University News

BUCC pushes for development of student resources

Council discusses possible Renaissance Hotel boycott in reponse to federal investigation

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, February 20, 2014

Mental health services, internship expansion, ethical spending standards and a possible University boycott of the Renaissance Hotel dominated discussion at the Brown University Community Council meeting Wednesday afternoon. 


Psych Services and Mental Health

Psychological services clinicians saw 1,562 students last calendar year. Twenty percent of undergraduates, 13 percent of grad students and 10 percent of medical students made use of the office.

Julia Lynford ’14, co-president of Active Minds, a group aiming to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues, expressed concern over the limit of seven sessions with a Brown psychological services clinician per academic year and the average wait time of two weeks for an appointment.

Both the appointment limit and the wait time are due to limited resources, said Sherri Nelson, director of psychological services.

The office helps students explore options for local therapy even after they reach their University appointments limit, Nelson said. The University also offers same-day crisis care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, she added.

Similar short-term individual therapy options are common among the University’s peer institutions, said Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services and interim dean of the College.

Extending services will become even more necessary as master’s programs and the undergraduate student body expand in coming years in accordance with President Christina Paxson’s strategic plan, Nelson said.

Brad Marston, professor of physics and BUCC member, called for the development of  protocol to help faculty members detect students who need help, so they can refer them to Psychological Services.

Klawunn said she would send out regularly-distributed emails containing information on how students and faculty members can help other community members seek help with mental health issues.

Psychological Services should pay special attention to international students, said BUCC member Sveta Milusheva GS, as some may come from countries where seeking help for mental health is stigmatized.



“We simply need more (internships) and we need a broader range to satisfy the really broad range of student interests,” said Andrew Simmons, director of CareerLAB and associate dean of the College.

Simmons said he hopes CareerLAB can develop into a “comprehensive program to strengthen students’ academic experience and preparation for life after Brown.”

CareerLAB will initiate three pilot programs this summer aimed at expanding internship opportunities, increasing internship funding for students on financial aid and offering summer networking programs in “key cities,” Simmons said.

“Good things always happen” when alumni and students are in a room together, he said, adding that it is important to build on networks such as BruNet, which currently has 5,000 alums, in order to strengthen connections between students and alums.

Increased internship funding was part of Paxson’s strategic plan, and the University announced a plan to fund unpaid internships for all students on financial aid last month.

“It’s been thrilling to hear that every student will have a research or internship opportunity regardless of financial need,” Klawunn said.


Renaissance Hotel Boycott

Student Labor Alliance members Shelby Mack ’14 and You Bin Kang ’14 partnered with Courtney Smith ’10 to ask the BUCC to boycott the Renaissance Hotel.

Workers at the Renaissance Hotel decided working conditions were not acceptable last March, Smith said, adding that workers were receiving “poverty wages” that did not let them afford their rents or take care of their children.

The Renaissance Hotel has already been found to have violated several Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, Smith said.

The National Labor Relations Board is looking into charges against the hotel’s owners, the Procaccianti Group, which allegedly intimidated workers into not forming a union.

Mack said the council made a comparable decision to boycott a hotel four years ago, and the decision led to positive developments for the workers in a labor dispute with the hotel.

BUCC members were hesitant to vote on the issue, fearing that they did not have enough information. The Procaccianti Group was not represented at the meeting.

Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 said taking a position on the issue on behalf of the University made him nervous and suggested the committee wait until the NLRB comes to a conclusion on the case.

“This isn’t Brown trying to take the NLRB’s place,” Cameron Johnson ’17 said. “Brown doesn’t want to be complicit with some of these things going on by not doing anything,” he added.

“Time is of the essence,” Smith said. “These workers have been at labor dispute for 10 months.”

“No one’s ringing any false alarms,” she added. “As an alumni and someone who takes pride in coming from this university,” she would urge that the BUCC make a decision, she said.

The council ultimately decided to refrain from casting a vote, though UCS President Todd Harris ’14.5 and UCS Communications Chair Kiera Peltz ’16  said they would be willing to do so.

Schlissel and Paxson said the issue might be tabled if a vote was cast and came up negative.

“If there is a no vote, it might send the wrong message,” Schlissel said.

The Renaissance Hotel may receive patronage from members of the Brown community in the months before the council reaches a decision, especially considering the fast-approaching 250th anniversary celebrations March 7 and A Day on College Hill, according to the SLA members.

But the University can explore other avenues to voice support for the workers while taking time to gather more evidence before it makes a definite decision on the SLA’s resolution, Huidekoper said.


University Procurement Standards

The University should aim for more than getting the maximum value out of every dollar it spends, said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration.

“We want to do it in a way that is consistent with our values as an institution,” Huidekoper said.

Spending University money in compliance with laws “seems like a reasonable thing to ask,” she said, but community members are “not always” doing that.

Though she estimated 99 percent of University transactions meet moral standards, Huidekoper said she sees  a need for greater vigilance and plans to review the University’s vendor code of conduct.

“We don’t want anything that we use to have been made in sweatshops,” whether it carries a Brown logo or not, she said.


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  1. reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues

    Let me see if I understand you correctly:
    You want to teach a “stigma”, and then “reduce” it.

    Christina Paxson:

    Is this honestly what your want taught there? See
    stigma/rape, same lesson.

    Harold A.
    Maio, retired Mental Health Editor

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