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USG signs joint mental health statement with UHS, CPS

<h6>Andrew Somerville / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Andrew Somerville / The Daily Princetonian

At this week’s meeting, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Senate agreed to sign a joint statement from University Health Services (UHS) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) regarding student mental health this semester. 

Discussion was opened to all members of the Senate, as well as anyone in attendance, to decide whether or not to sign the statement from the entire USG. No members were in opposition, so the statement was sent to students via email on the afternoon of Monday, April 19.

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In the meeting, U-Council chair Julia Garaffa ’23 said that “signing [the statement] from all of the Senate shows that [USG] puts mental health as a priority, and not just as one of the things that we do.”

“I think that having solidarity coming from the entire Senate would be very powerful,” Mental Health Task Force leader Allen Liu ’22 said during the meeting.

The statement addresses the current mental health struggles of Princeton students and cites the memo on mental health that was sent to faculty members last week from Dean Dolan.

“We urge instructors to heed these calls and tangibly consider the mental health of their students and of the community as the semester closes with exams and assignments,” USG, CPS, and UHS wrote in the statement. “We will continue to advocate for students’ mental health holistically, including in academic life, and we are pursuing administrative partnerships to that end.”

The memo includes data from CPS this semester, such as the statistic that CPS had more student appointments in the month of March 2021 than in any month prior.

“Dean Dolan’s memo to the faculty was actually a very positive development,” USG president Christian Potter ’22 said during the meeting.

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According to the statement, UHS and CPS are “actively pursuing additional resources and accommodations that may be made available to students throughout the rest of the semester.” The email also refers students to USG’s Mental Health Resources Guidebook.

Liu mentioned that the USG Academic Committee is also working on matters related to student mental health.

Madison Mellinger ’23, who is not a member of USG, said at the meeting that “students are struggling a lot right now.” She also said that she hoped the statement would “be taken seriously by professors and the campus community in general, so that people would be more lenient towards students.”

Several in attendance mentioned the armed robbery on Sunday, April 18 as an incident that significantly affected student mental health.

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During this discussion on mental health, Lois Wu ’23 referenced recent work done by the Mental Health Initiative this semester. 

“Giving students stickers and phone wallets doesn’t really do very much,” she said. “Is there anything else that can be done?”

In response, Liu mentioned that the Mental Health Task Force has worked directly with CPS and UHS to expand resources.

Potter reiterated the limitations on the powers of both the Senate and the University administration.

“Statements don’t fix everything; we know this. We are all students too. There is always the question of ‘What else is being done?’. Dean Dolan’s recent memo — that was something that could be done, and was done,” he said.

Potter mentioned that Tigers in Town is also a possible channel for students to relieve stress. 

However, earlier in the meeting, several issues related to the Tigers in Town initiative were raised, including problems regarding occupancy. 

“Right now, spots fill up within, like, two minutes of [the website] opening,” Garaffa said. “Everyone should have this opportunity.” She also asked if funding issues prohibited a larger event.

“Our partners do have capacity issues,” said Campus and Community Affairs Chair Lehman Montgomery ’22, mentioning that businesses usually request for Tigers in Town events to occur during usual slow business hours, and that they often cause occupancy stress on the business.

“It’s not a financial issue, it’s a capacity issue,” Potter summarized.

Also at the meeting, U-Councilor Sarah Lee ’22 presented a new initiative for students to receive free packing supplies during the move-out period.

Supplies will be available to all undergraduate students from April 26 until May 15, with specific pick-up times yet to be determined. Housing and Real Estate Services (HRES) will provide supplies from their existing surplus left over from last spring when students left campus. Lee noted that HRES will subsidize any additional supplies that will need to be purchased if their stock runs out.

Senate meetings — open to all members of the undergraduate student body — occur via Zoom at 8:30 p.m. ET each Sunday. The link to join the meeting can be found in the weekly USG newsletter, which is sent to all undergraduate students.

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