UC Discusses Improvements to Mental Health on Campus

Following a recent anonymous op-ed in The Crimson that sparked a campus-wide conversation and a Friday rally on the subject of mental health, Undergraduate Council representatives used their general meeting Sunday to discuss steps that the organization could take in the coming weeks to address the issue.

The body passed with no opposition and only one abstention the “Mental Health at Harvard Act,” in which the UC resolved to hold a town hall meeting and publish an op-ed in The Crimson on mental health.

The legislation also referred to the recent op-ed on mental health services offered at Harvard that came the day before a spontaneous rally on mental health and the creation of the “Coalition to Reform Mental Health Services at Harvard.” With the act’s passage, the UC made official its support of the newly formed coalition, resolving that the UC would listen to the group’s concerns, provide it with “opportunities to engage with administrators,” and help with it with grassroots efforts.

“I think that we have a really unique opportunity right now to leverage whatever sort of influence and ability to organize that we have to address an issue that is a concern right now,” said Crimson Yard representative Brett M. Biebelberg ’16.

UC President Tara Raghuveer ’14 said during the meeting that she thought the potential for a referendum on the issue might be an important aspect of the larger role she envisions the UC playing in the ongoing conversation on mental health.

Representatives discussed other possible measures to address mental health concerns. Treasurer Jonathan Y. Li ’14 suggested the formation of a group of peer counselors unaffiliated with the University that could function as a supportive network for students. Representatives also floated the idea of the creation of a mental health fund in the Council budget.

During the meeting, the UC also finalized plans for its pilot, small-scale Junior Week scheduled to start this week. Representatives Christopher A. Smiles ’15 and Manik R. Kuchroo ’16, the pair responsible for coordinating Junior Week events, announced that this week’s events include a ‘Skate Night’ on Wednesday and a Class of 2014 Speaks event on Thursday night. The UC will also encourage attendance at the women’s hockey “White the Bright” game against Yale this Saturday. Raghuveer urged the representatives to talk to juniors about attending all these events.

“We’re trying to build community on campus. The fact is, community on campus is not good, and I think a lot of the reason for that is because people here are individually motivated, everyone is always too busy to hang out,” Raghuveer said. “We need to fight that by bringing people to these really cool events.”

Newly appointed Dean of Student Life Stephen Lassonde, who attended the meeting, said briefly at the beginning that he thought it was important for him to hear the concerns of students. Lassonde will officially assume his position in March.

—Staff writer Steven S. Lee can be reached at stevenlee@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @StevenSJLee.

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