VSA Council 4.12.15

7:04//Call to order and Attendance

Absent: Ferry (proxy), Main (proxy), SoCos (proxy), Cushing (proxy)

7:05//Consensus Agenda

  1. BSU (Social Consciousness) $1000/$1000
  2. BSU (Discretionary) $1000/$4000
  3. Devils (Conference) $1200/$2050
  4. Quiz Bowl (PreOrg) $300/$300
  5. Business Club (Discretionary) $150/$150
  6. VISA (Discretionary) $1400/$2000
  7. FWA (Capital) $437.40/$3257.40
  8. Minutes From 4/5/15

Activities: We are decertifying Sailing Club. We are allowing anybody else to take that up again in the future as a pre-org. We are also looking into getting somebody in Admin to help out with finding orgs that don’t do anything.

7:06//Forum With Wendy Freedman

Wendy Freedman: Thanks for inviting me. I’m the director of counseling here. I want to give you an update on everything here. We provide short-term treatment and short-term medication management. We also do crisis response on campus, so people can be seen that day. We also help facilitate on-call in the evenings. We provide support to everyone on campus, and some off-campus. We also help CARES and TLC. We have training for groups. Not only are we response, but we are prevention. Wellness and Wellbeing. We sit on a whole bunch of committees here. I want to talk about some of the changes. I want to start by thanking you all in getting our Post-doc position here. We are very thankful for that. We received a bunch of support to get our post-doc position back. She had a particular interest in working with international students as well. And now we know this will be a permanent position. Chris St. Germain, who was here for about six years, left in November to a different position in the faculty. The other change was that Lisa Redecker had to take a personal leave. You might have heard that we have been approved for another counselor position. We have a new assistant director in August. We also have somebody who specializes in LGBTQ interests. And we are currently looking for our post-doc for next year. We have our consulting psychiatrist who comes in for five hours on Fridays. We have been working with the college to try to get him here longer. We were approved for a mental health fund, which came from Chris Roellke. There are at least 20 students who access this currently. It is for hep with co-payments and travel off-campus. We are hoping to make it a more robust fund so more people can access that fund. We were in a bit of a pickle with our on-call services. For many years we provided 24 hour service. As long as the residence houses were open, so were we. But then we had an increase in need on campus, so it wasn’t sustainable for our counselors. We did some research and currently have a proposal to use an off-campus counseling service for off-hours. This has been really helpful now. We are planning to have more group therapy in the fall. This is the most counselors we have had in my 11 years here.

Finance: I wanted to ask about the number of positions in your office. The assistant director left in November? Is somebody filling in?

Freedman: Yes, eventually we were able to bring somebody back to fill that space. We want to train some people in the Fall in case we need them in the future.

Finance: How were you able to function with people missing?

Freedman: It’s been interesting. The college has been helping. This is probably why you’ve heard people talking about longer waits. We are back down to 8 days, but we are working on making that shorter even.

Finance: With the new people, what’s the change in the number of positions?

Freedman: If we were fully staffed, it would be plus one. Not including the post-doc. We are hoping for six counselors, a post-doc, and a social work intern.

Finance: The consulting psychiatrist, seeing that they are only here for five hours a week, how many students is he able to treat?

Freedman: People get an initial 1/2 hour appointment, then they have a follow-up 1/2 hour and then 15 minute appointments once they are stabilized. He is often booked three weeks out. There’s one psychiatric practice that is within walking distance, but we don’t like to refer them.

Finance: How many students can even get to that initial appointment?

Freedman: I want to get hard stats for you before I answer. Any student that really wants to see him, gets in. It’s just a matter of waiting.

Ops: What do you think the ideal situation would be for counseling services and how we compare to our peer institutions?

Freedman: it’s hard to compare. Compared to our peers counselor-wise, we have more counselors, but we are also more highly utilized. When you look at usage rates, we are getting closer to reasonable numbers now. Psychiatrists, we are not on par.

Pres: There was talk of hiring a psychiatric nurse practitioner. I’ve heard this isn’t happening anymore?

Freedman: We’ve been encouraging that that would be a good idea. It would cost less. I think the argument for hiring one for a permanent staff member has to do with liability. I haven’t had an opportunity to flesh that out with folks. We can also hire one in a consultant form, like the psychiatrist. I understand there are a lot of competing demands.

2017: You had said there are liability concerns. Can you speak to that?

Freedman: I’m not sure. It is true that whenever someone is a staff member of the college, there is a liability concern. They do pay for us to have insurance. I haven’t had a chance to learn more.

Finance: There was a New Yorker article that came out in Dec. about US university policies about students who attempt suicide. What is the college’s official stance?

Freedman: There’s been a shift in my 11 years here. The office of civil rights has created a shift nationally. What it means with Title II is that a student cannot be banned due to risk to self. If someone is at a high risk of hurting themselves, we know this isn’t the ideal place for them to get the support they need. If someone is at imminent risk, they have thoughts, intent, plan, we have to send them to the hospital for assessment. If they are at-risk, they are kept in the hospital, if not then we will work with them for a plan. Sometimes it is communicated to the community that the college makes people take a leave, but that’s not legal from the College. It comes from somewhere else, like family or self.

Finance: I’ve heard that students can’t stay overnight, but they can come in the day?

Freedman: sometimes in the process of risk-to-self, students have a large shift on campus. The college tries to figure out a way to balance. Sometimes students stay off campus with their family. It’s about risk to others and community impact.

SoCos: As you know, there have been a lot of changes about confidentiality. Have you been able to foresee more changes coming?

Freedman: Throughout the past number of decades, there have been national swings between parentis locus and seeing students as individual selves. This current standard of practice….We try to do the best we can. We always try to have the student take the lead, but it’s about that imminent risk threshold. We don’t break confidentiality. That’s from the community alerting people about worry. The student support network comes in here.

Finance: You thought that the school has an all-time high. Can you talk about how you see that manifesting?

Freedman: I think the main thing is the student support network. Ten years ago, there was nothing like that. I think Virginia Tech really shifted this. It’s about why didn’t someone know and why didn’t someone do something.

Josh: About financial aid. Has that ever been an issue?

Freedman: I can’t really speak to that. That’s not my area. They often try to figure out how to make it happen to the best possible way, financially. I think the financial aid office or the committee of student records and leaves and privileges can help the most.

Ops: I know some students register with accessibility for mental issues. Is that your office?

Freedman: Historically, we have not done that. When stuedents come to counseling services, we don’t get to make decisions, we just advocate for things. We want to separate ourselves from the decision making process with academics and accommodations. The challenge we run into is for students who don’t have means. It gets pretty complicated. It has to maintain the standards of the accessibility office. We don’t want people to just come in to get paperwork filled out. It needs work, to figure that out.

President: There are higher levels of suicidality now then ten years ago.

Freedman: Everyone is trying to figure that out. It’s a national thing. We have hypotheses. It’s a work with more anxiety and stress, post-9/11 world. There’s been shifts in parenting, in part related to that. Kids don’t go out and play in the street by themselves now. There’s a higher level of parent involvement. Similar challenges put people in crisis now than from years ago. There’s been real development in psychiatric medication now. They are coming here with more significant mental health issues. Research is going on at Harvard about resilience. It’s a national trend, though.

Finance: Has anyone looked into demographic shifts?

Freedman: I don’t know if they’ve made that link. Students are coming to college with a lot of challenges. It’s really hard.

Finance: I think that this has been a trending conversation. I feel like these conversations happen all of the time, but everyone has different information. I think it would be useful to have more direct information from your office to help the people interested in these issues to advocate for that.

Freedman: When people ask me, I’m upfront about it. I think it would be hard if every department publicized their wish list. Just so you know, like every other department, we calculate our statistics at the end of the year that goes in the annual report. I don’t think that is private information. I’m happy to share what I can. That’s all information we keep close track of. I can give you a quick link to something I found helpful: the AUCCD.org. They put out a survey every year and tabulate it accordingly. They compare a whole host of things. I just want to mention one more thing. We take student confidentiality very seriously. We have a different narrative than others on campus. Confidentiality is more important than anything else.

7:52//VARC Resolution

Alessandra: I’m here with my fellow exec board members from VARC. We wanted to introduce this amendment because we saw study breaks with animals in petting zoos. We thought it was stressful to have stress-busters with stressed out animals. We found it to be pretty exploitative. They pose a bunch of health risks. We think it would be a better opportunity for more community outreach. We worked with Eve Dunbar last year to get some alternative study breaks. There’s precedence for this.

Pres: Does this also apply to when they bring therapy dogs?

Alessandra: If the person who is living with the therapy animal is okay with it, then that’s cool.

Ops: Can you speak to the specifics of what is being resolved?

Alessandra: We are asking for three points. One is to encourage groups on campus to not host events involving animals as entertainment. Two to encourage groups to use alternative forms of entertainment and three to not finance things like this.

Finance: I’ve seen stuff like this in the news. I was wondering if there was a precedent for having it banned at other schools.

Alessandra: I don’t think we have. We are one of the most active animal rights groups in America.

2017: You described it first as petting zoos and then broadened it to all events that would feature animals. Are you including events that would not stereotypically be petting zoos? I’ve heard about dogs and cats from shelters.

Alessandra: I think that I would consider those as petting zoos. Just with companion animals, you have a human who has the best interests and a good relationship with the animal. Dogs and cats there for adoption fairs is to be given to as many people as possible. It doesn’t make sense to have adoption fairs here.

Academics: As an apparatus for institutional memory, I think amendments are better.

Finance: if it passes, I can put it in Finance policy.

Josh: Is the language to discourage or ban?

Alessandra: What do you think?

Josh: I don’t think there’s anything else we tell orgs to do other than bottled water. This means the VSA will be taking VARC’s stance on this, like with the bottled waters.

Alessandra: I think by virtue of the third part, you would agree to not fund events. Orgs can make it happen if they want it.

Pres: In the future, who is going to be the judge of whether or not something is a petting zoo?

2017: More pedantic, because of the wording of this and how it specifies the council, I think you want to put it in the permanent constitution. It wouldn’t be hard to write it up as an amendment.

Ops: The bottled water ban. It went to the VSA to endorse and the CCL to codify. Secondly, I personally don’t think it is unclear about what is or isn’t a petting zoo.

Alessandra: Basically just any events involving non-companion events make us uncomfortable.

Finance: It’s very specific to our VSA council. There is precedence for us curtailing org activities. It goes with the rest of the policies for how we spend money.

Josh: There’s a huge difference between philosophical beliefs and ethics and best practices.

2015: How do you feel about instagram dogs?

Brooke: I think that’s fine. The problem is with multiple animals.

Ops: For VARC, what would you like us to do? Amend on the floor?

Alessandra: I move to amend the resolution to say all councils, not just this specific one. All three.

Pres: We are voting to amend the language.

Ferry, cushing abstain.

Pres: Now let’s vote on it.

Ferry and cushing abstain. Activities, against.

Resolution passes.

8:10//Constituent Concerns

Pres: Anything?

8:10//Executive Board Reports

Activities: Right now we are in the bulk of getting mission statements and constitutions and new exec boards for the year. We are finishing off our org reviews, so we might do more decertification.

Academics: Majors fair was great. Pre-reg starts tomorrow. If you have questions, go to our peer advising system. Student seminars are happening. The search for the library director has been narrowed down to four candidates. They will be coming to campus! We will have meetings with them, email me if you want in. The curricular proposal conversations are still on-going.

Pres: Council updates!

Joss: We haven’t been doing a ton lately. We have merch coming. Tabling at the end of April. The designs are cool. Sweatshirts, t-shirts and mugs.

Town Students: I’m here. We are all good. Doing well. *giggles* Spring is coming up. Parties will happen and neighbors get angry because we are loud. We haven’t had any complaints for a while, but it’s been cold. This is an ongoing problem.

Lathrop: We are ordering merch soon. It’s cool. Lathrop art market is on April 25. If you want to be a part of it, email us: [email protected]. There’s no set deadline, but by the end of the week would be good.

Finance: Merch! You’re not allowed to sell merch at a loss. A lot of you are ordering late. Elections are happening.

8:18//Open Discussion

Strong: We are selling merch on Fridays! Strong beanies and stickers!

Ops: Shout-out to Davi for laser tag. I killed it. The former student leadership awards will be a banquet on May 8. Butch’s report will be here next week.

2017: We are putting on an outdoor film screening on the 23, from 8-10. Film, TBD. There will be a poll.

South Commons: I’ve been keeping you updated for the search for new house advisors. There will be two candidates coming soon. Every Wed and Thurs for the next few weeks. I’ve met all but one, and I really like them. This week starts Sexual Assault Awareness Weeks! Wear solidarity shirts on Wednesday.

Pres: I’ve been asked by the BOEA to inform everyone on council not running for positions to table next week. You need to table or run for something. It will be a physical voting station.

Council adjourns.