Student Assembly discusses mental health, LGBT awareness

After debate and discussion, the Student Assembly Senate passed the Mental Health Concert Act at their meeting Tuesday night.

The Mental Health Concert Act, sponsored by Sen. Elliot Theuerkauf ’17 and Sen. Nadia Ilunga ’15, allocates $20,000 toward a concert to raise awareness of mental health on the College of William and Mary’s campus. $12,000 will go to the artist, who has yet to be named, $6,000 will go towards logistics, and $2,000 was allocated for advertising the event.

Some senators lauded the bill for its collaboration between several different organizations on campus that do not always work together, including AMP, Inter-Fraternity Council and Health Outreach Peer Educators.

“What I think is beautiful about this bill is the collaboration happening,” Ilunga said. “We are going to be reaching a group of people that … are not [typically] involved in the conversation about mental health.”

The idea for the concert originated within the IFC, according to IFC President Alex Greenspan ’15. Greenspan expressed his support for the concert, mentioning his support of the IFC’s partnership with HOPE for the event. He explained that the current ways mental health is promoted at the College doesn’t always reach Greek populations on campus.

“This mental health awareness movement, which for a longtime has been promoted by the College, the Student Assembly, Residence [Life], in a way that I feel for many reasons has not been as effective in the Greek community,” Greenspan said. “That members of the Greek community are not as receptive to certain methods of programming. This is a way to get the Inter Fraternity Council back in this.”

Vice President of the Mental Health Branch of HOPE Rachel Boykin ’15 said HOPE would support the concert, as long as the concert produces tangible outcomes. Boykin explained that the concert needs to be “progressive and logistical,” with a lasting impact on the student body.

“We are in support as long as there are tangible outcomes and there is learning motivation before, during and after that event. We don’t want it to be an event that people go to and forget about. It needs to be something that will be remembered in a way that is positive and has a positive impact and ripple effect,” Boykin said.

HOPE has come up with several suggestions to produce the desired tangible outcome, including creating a website dedicated to the event with more mental health information, displaying information for the counseling center and other mental health resources on advertising and tickets for the event, or implementing an incentive program for students that complete Cognito at-risk training, an online module that teaches people to recognize at-risk signs.

Sen. James Walker ’15 pointed out that the bill had increased its allocations by $8,000 to a total of $20,000, when the previous week’s bill only allocated $12,000.

Walker raised his concerns that the Senate was allocating too much without knowing whether the goal of the concert was to raise money or awareness.

“I am worried that we are going to put $20,000 — yes that’s a high estimate, but we are authorizing that $20,000 [be used] on this concert — without having a clear idea of is it going to be a concert that raises money or is it going to be a concert that raises awareness,” Walker said. “I think we are trying to both and I personally don’t think it will be as successful with trying to do both.”

In response to Walker, senators explained that raising both awareness and money are the concert’s main goals. Senators pointed out that the $12,000 artist fee had not changed, but $8,000 was added to cover logistics and promotion. The bill constitutes 13 percent of the budget according to Sen. Yohance Whitacker ’16. Sen. Chase Jordan ’15 explained that the increase in allocation of money allows the SA a cushion to execute the bill properly without having to pass an emergency bill for more funding.

A brief discussion also arose over if the artist was an appropriate pairing with mental health. The general consensus was that the not-yet-named artist is appropriate and understands the nature of the concert as a function to promote awareness of mental health on campus.

Ultimately, senators passed the bill. Sen. Walker chose to abstain.

In new business, Ilunga introduced the Transfer Student Act, which allocates $250 to provide food, tables, and games for a field day Oct. 3.

The field day will be open to everyone, but specifically targets transfer students as way to help them reconnect after being at school for a month. Ilunga explained that transfer students aren’t always able to connect with each other as easily as freshmen.

“[Transfer students] don’t get to live in the same housing as the transfer group that they do orientation with. … This event will serve … as a connecting point for transfer students in the same orientation group to reconnect, catch up and have fun together,” Ilunga said.

Sen. Tyler Brent ’15 also introduced the No H8 Campaign Act. The No H8 Campaign is an organization that advocates for the LGBT community through photographs portraying silent protest.

Brent’s bill allocates $2,500 to bring members of the No H8 Campaign to campus, as well as an additional $2,500 to subsidize the cost of photos taken by the No H8 campaign at 50 percent of the regular cost for students. Unsubsidized, the photographs cost $40 per student.

Ackerman assigned both the Transfer Student Act and No H8 Campaign Act to the Outreach, Finance and Student Life committees.

Whitacker introduced the Charter Day Concert Act to allocate money for the annual Charter Day concert. The bill was assigned to the Finance, Student Life and Public Affairs committees.

Homecoming grant applications are due today at midnight.   


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