Earlier this week, UNC hosted a Mental Health Summit to bring together faculty, staff, parents and students to discuss mental health on campus. Various sessions were held focusing on campus culture, crisis services and prevention. The event ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and was planned in response to the ongoing mental health crisis — and to understand and address mental health issues and well-being.
Student panelists, administrators and athletes all spoke during the event in a series of discussions, panels and sessions, which aimed to bring together diverse voices and leaders to discuss the University’s next steps in addressing campus mental health. Leaders acknowledge that major issues with mental health were known to exist nationally and on campus before the pandemic, but the health crisis has only worsened rates of anxiety and depression.
Although the Faculty Executive Committee meeting for the day was canceled in light of the summit, having the event on a day where classes are still scheduled made it difficult for any student who wanted to attend to do so.
“I'm glad we are not holding our FEC meeting, but shouldn't our students get a reprieve from classes and faculty members?” Deb Aikat, a professor in the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, said at a Nov. 1 meeting. “How can we expect people to attend a summit when there are other commitments upon our shoulders?”
This was evident in the results of a “live” afternoon poll, where less than 1 percent of the attendees participating were undergraduate students. Creating an opportunity for students to voice their concerns about mental health on campus without giving them the time they need to attend was illogical on UNC’s part.
Additionally, the schedule for the event was posted on Nov. 12, a mere three days before the event began. This made it difficult for students, faculty and staff to make plans to attend the events they were interested in.
UNC Media Relations said in an email statement that they “recognize that faculty, staff and students might not have been able to attend every session they were interested in, which is why the entire presentation was recorded and is in the process of being posted online."
However, recordings are limited in the minimal participation they allow, and they do not give faculty, staff or students the opportunity to make their voices and thoughts heard.
UNC’s decision to host a mental health summit was a good one — but it’s imperative that the University make sure that events directed toward topics like improving mental health on campus are accessible to undergraduates in addition to faculty, staff and parents.
Hosting a mental health summit was an opportunity to look differently at the approach to mental health; it’s imperative to involve undergraduates in the conversation.
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