Committee To Examine Stress

Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds has tasked a committee with finding ways to relieve stress for overburdened undergraduates.

"It became clear to me that we at the College needed to think about whether or not we were providing enough support for students to address their stress," Hammonds said. "It’s something that permeates the air here, that people are always stressed out, and I don’t think that’s a good thing."

The Workgroup on Student Stress—which is composed of a total of 22 administrators, House Masters, faculty members, students, and health experts—met for the first time last week. The committee will spend the next several months identifying stressors in the Harvard community and will then release a report recommending solutions in the spring, Hammonds said.

Adams House Master Judith S. Palfrey ’67, who co-chairs the working group with director of Harvard University Health Services Paul J. Barreira, wrote in an email that she expects the report to be released publicly.

Members of the group have already begun collecting data on sources of student stress. Last week, Mather House Master Michael D. Rosengarten, who sits on the committee, circulated an online poll over his House’s email list asking Matherites to rate student stress levels and rank their most significant stressors.

The question of how to support student wellbeing on campus has been raised in public discussions between administrators and students throughout the semester.

In October, University President Drew G. Faust told an audience at Kirkland House that student mental health was "very much on [the] minds" of Harvard administrators. Earlier this month, Hammonds said at the Harvard College Governance Panel that administrators were taking those issues seriously.

Eliot House Master Gail A. O’Keefe said that while she believes that Harvard offers a sufficient number of resources to help alleviate student stress, she hopes to see the committee find ways to better direct students toward the appropriate resources for different types of anxiety.

"I don’t think that a lot of students recognize the differences between all these resources, and when to go to one or to the other," O’Keefe said.

And though Undergraduate Council President Danny P. Bicknell ’13 lauded administrators for prioritizing the issue, he said he thinks that some level of stress is inevitable on campus.

"Harvard students are always going to be overcommitted. I’m not exactly sure how you can resolve that, so it’s more of how you go about being overcommitted but also managing healthy stress," Bicknell said.

—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at mcook@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@college.harvard.edu.

Tags