UPDATED: February 11, 2018 at 12:47 a.m.
The Undergraduate Council will conduct a survey to gather student input on current mental health resources and inclusion on campus in order to help the UC better allocate its resources.
The survey, which passed the Council on a 29-3-1 vote on Monday, asks students about their mental health experiences on campus and whether they feel informed of the resources available to them.
Student Life Committee Chair Arnav Agrawal ’20, who co-sponsored the resolution to conduct the survey, said the survey will serve as a “temperature check” of the student body on issues of mental health.
“We would like to use this as a metaphorical tape measure to calculate our distance from that ever-elusive destination of perfect inclusion at Harvard,” Agrawal said.
In addition, Agrawal said he hopes the survey will help destigmatize mental health and promote dialogue between students and their UC representatives.
“I think that this will help foster communication and conversation between the UC and the general student body, foster conversations in dining halls, and start normalizing mental health,” Agrawal said.
Multiple representatives were reluctant to vote to approve the survey without additional questions focusing on sexual violence.
“I view [sexual violence] and mental health as inseparable,” Lowell House Representative Michael Scherr ’20 said. “I haven’t heard enough in terms of how this was geared towards gender inclusivity and to represent all Harvard students.”
In response to the concerns, Lowell House Representative Julia Huesa ’20 proposed an amendment adding two questions to the survey. Huesa had earlier brought up the issue and said she was troubled the survey left out questions surrounding sexual violence, which she said she viewed as a fundamental component of the questionnaire.
The first question will ask respondents whether they have “experienced sexual violence” during their time at Harvard. The second asks about respondents’ experiences with institutional bodies on campus relating to sexual assault and harassment.
Agrawal agreed to accept the amendment, but said the mental health advisors that he and other survey leaders consulted with expressed their desire to save questions about sexual assault for a separate survey.
Quincy House Representative Sarah Fellman ’18 said that she also worried that the response rate would not be high enough to accurately represent the student body’s opinions.
“I think it’s something we have to work really hard on to try to figure out what we’re going to do to actually get people to take this survey,” Fellman said.
Fellman pointed to the 53 percent response rate on the 2015 Sexual Assault Climate Survey despite numerous entreaties to complete the survey by influential figures including Conan O’Brien and University President Drew G. Faust.
UC President Catherine L. Zhang ’19 announced at the meeting that over 50 professors, including former University President Lawrence H. Summers, have agreed to host a dinner as part of Harvard Conversations, a new Council initiative modeled off the popular Classroom to Table program. The UC agreed to partly fund the program at last week’s general meeting.
Student Relations Committee Chair Nicholas Whittaker ‘19 also said at the meeting that the committee will co-host town halls once each semester in conjunction with the newly-established UC caucuses. The town halls will focus on addressing the concerns of the communities each caucus represents, Whittaker said.
—Staff writer Jonah S. Berger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonahberger98.
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