Campaigning is over: Let’s focus on mental and sexual health policies

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March 27, 2014

11:16 PM

The Student Assembly’s election results are in and another spirited SA campaign has come to an end. Congratulations are in order for Colin Danly ’15, Kendall Lorenzen ’15 and the rest of the newly elected senate. The College of William and Mary is fortunate to have such dedicated students as leaders. I hope they will take this election as an opportunity to reform our school’s mental and sexual health policies.

While we would like to consider ourselves a progressive campus on these issues, many of our policies are not where they need to be. S.A.F.E.R., an organization that fights against sexual violence at colleges, recently launched a Campus Accountability Program to evaluate schools’ sexual assault policies. The College did not receive a passing grade. In addition, our mental health resources are not as effective for students as they ought to be; students are often forced off-campus or fail to receive adequate help from the counseling center.

This is unacceptable, particularly in the aftermath of several widely publicized events on campus. In the past, the SA has been very good at launching awareness campaigns about these issues. But it is time for the SA to switch its focus to implementing concrete policy changes. Policies, after all, are what will have a lasting effect on students’ lives for years to come.

S.A.F.E.R. recommends some easy policy changes. They include empowering the Student Health Center to provide free emergency contraception, making the school’s Title IX coordinator more visible to students, and implementing primary prevention programs that focus on teaching students how to intervene if witnessing a potential sexual assault.

With regard to mental health, the SA should allow the Counseling Center Advisory Committee to have more resources and student input. But most of all, the SA should become a tireless advocate for students within the administration when it comes to mental health. The University of Virginia Chapter of Active Minds and Student Council recently held a panel with students, professors and administrators to discuss needed reforms of U.Va’s mental health policies. Why shouldn’t we do the same?

Reforming college policies is hard, and these are difficult conversations to have. But it’s about time we start.

Email Michael Payne at [email protected]

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  • Michael Payne