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In the past week, we have all felt the weight of the tragedy that occurred in Dunster House. As we mourn for our fellow students, we must also seek to learn from this terrible event and work to improve the College's support systems.
While no one can confirm what caused the catastrophe, many have pointed to stress brought on by studies. As we encouraged the University to make its services for dealing with depression more accessible earlier in the year, we now hope that the University's facilities for stress counseling will reach out more to students.
The Bureau of Study Counsel (BSC) ranks as the foremost source for helping students to defeat stress. The BSC does put out booklets in registration packets, sometimes posters in dorms and advertises in house bulletins. Still, many students are not informed about how to utilize it.
The BSC could do more to increase student awareness of the different services it provides, from holding office hours in the Houses and Yard to training student liaisons who might be more easily approachable. The BSC's name might be part of the problem, since it sounds more like an official agency than an advising service.
Although the BSC could be helpful, advising and support can and should begin closer to home. Resident tutors should keep in contact with their advisees by calling them to find out about classes and anxieties, by making their presence known around the houses and by hosting frequent study breaks.
The College could also consider setting up a hotline for students suffering under stress. Since many students are reluctant to seek help for problems that they do not always perceive, the hotline could also respond to calls from roommates, friends and even teaching fellows and resident tutors. A simple phone call in return, leaving the number of a counselor, could make getting help easier for students.
Because of the tragedy, many students have felt a special urge to talk to each other during this year's summer move-out, a stressful time in itself. We hope that everyone will realize that communication can help in resolving problems as well as providing mutual support during a difficult time.
The College has been shaken by the events in Dunster House, but it has also been compelled to undergo serious self-examination. Hopefully, increased student and administration concern for problems of stress and interpersonal relations will help to prevent tragedy from transpiring again.
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