University Health Services (UHS) recently called in a consulting firm to host focus groups to determine the sources of stress for Harvard students, as well as both how students deal with stress and how effective the students feel the University is in helping us cope. The focus groups, which will meet between Feb. 18 and 20, are an excellent move on the part of the University. We support the initiative of the University and UHS to address the issue of stress and the problem of support networks on campus, as well as the method employed, namely consulting students directly. However, before we offer unequivocal praise to the administration, it is important to acknowledge that this move is long overdue on a campus that is rife with stresses and scarce with services.
With promises of free pizza and movie tickets for two (perhaps the administration is doing its part to encourage a more robust social life on campus) UHS is luring otherwise-motivated students into focus groups to discuss three areas central to advising on campus; as Cricket Sheppard-Sawyer '97, a member of the UHS student advisory committee, explained: "UHS wants to know what people think of the services that are provided, what and how much they know about services that are available, and what barriers are keeping people from using services that already exist."
By calling on students to give their personal appraisal of the current system and to offer suggestions as to how to improve the situation, the University is taking seriously the student voice on this issue. Allowing students to express their own feelings about UHS is imperative for the process of changing the status quo, and we applaud the University and David Rosenthal '59, the director of UHS, for initiating the focus groups.
Although it is wonderful that the University is finally acting on improving the inadequate mental and physical health system here at Harvard, this should have happened years ago. Nonetheless, we are pleased that the University is finally taking the student voice seriously. We hope that students will take advantage of this opportunity to express concerns about health services as well as to promote changes in UHS policy. We look forward to an informed and speedy process of change in UHS and for the advising system at Harvard as a whole.