March 19, 2010
More students than ever before, both at the College of William and Mary and in the country as a whole, are seeking the help of student health counselors. This is a wonderful development, and yet, as a result, wait times for treatment at the College’s Counseling Center have been steadily increasing, stretching to over a month for some students. Counseling Center Director Warrenetta Mann insists this is not the result of a lack of staffing or funding; however, we sincerely disagree. An inability to provide prompt assistance to those who request it constitutes a serious problem, especially for such a vital resource to the College community.
Not all students face these month-long wait times, the Counseling Center arranges an initial assessment meeting within a day or two of the student’s request. While only those deemed “well-functioning” are forced to wait for a follow-up meeting, an extended wait for any potential problem could prove extremely detrimental. We would hate to think that increased wait times, based on only one preliminary meeting, might discourage those students who are just, perhaps tentatively, asking for help.
While it may be true that the Counseling Center has experienced steady growth over the past few years, clearly that growth has not been enough to match increased student need. That the Counseling Center itself does not view these wait times as something that needs to be addressed strikes us as particularly alarming. Continuing to ignore the problem can only cause it to worsen. It is essential to know when to ask for help — or, in this case, increased funding.
If this is part of a seasonal pattern, as Mann seems to imply, then perhaps seeking additional help during those few busy weeks or months of the semester should be explored. The fact that the Counseling Center hopes to hire another full-time American Psychological Association intern looks promising, but if this fails to address the current problems with wait times, other options must be pursued.
We realize that this is a trying time for the College in terms of finances, and some departments are forced to function while under-budgeted. This cannot be one. Given recent events, it is essential that the College exercise complete care with its students. The Counseling Center provides a vital service to the College in this effort, and we must ensure it continues to have the ability to provide that service to all who request it in a prompt manner. The first step to a solution is to admit the problem.