Faculty Senate, VPSA talk mental health


Rob Le Cates

Vice President of Student Affairs Anne Flaherty gives a presentation on the current status of student mental health and the measures the department has done to assist students at the Sept. 29, 2021 Faculty Senate meeting.

Luke Taylor, News Editor

Campus mental health resources and COVID-19 vaccination rates were main focuses of the faculty senate meeting on Tuesday.

Students and faculty have raised concerns in recent months about the affect the COVID-19 pandemic may be having on their mental health.

Last meeting, faculty senate decided that one of their goals for the year would be to create more resources for mental health on campus.

They invited Anne Flaherty, Eastern’s vice president of student affairs, to this week’s meeting because she had ideas for how her department could be part of those efforts.

Flaherty said that last year was the first time that academic concerns became one of the top three reasons student visited the counseling center.

Previously, mental health concerns like anxiety and depression had stayed at the top.

Flaherty said that one thing they learned from that time was some new resources the counseling center could utilize to help more students.

“Prior to COVID, most counselors were pretty uneasy, I think, with doing

virtual sessions,” Flaherty said. “I think there’s a lot more comfort level with that option [after last year] and I think it’s a good option for our students.”

Last year, almost all counseling sessions were held over Zoom. Now, students are able to have in-person counseling while wearing masks, but virtual sessions are still an option.

Flaherty also said that student affairs also wants to make sure that faculty and staff outside of the counseling center know they can also play a part in protecting students’ mental wellbeing.

When new faculty members attend their orientation, they will be given a card that lists campus resources and indicators that they should reach out to those services.

Flaherty also discussed the perception that the student accountability office only deals with misconduct issues on campus. She said that they spend more time making plans to handle student wellbeing with things like check-ins from resident assistants.

Faculty senate plans to add resource links to their website to help direct people toward what’s available on campus.

Jay Gatrell, Eastern’s provost, used part of his report to the senate to discuss student and faculty vaccination rates on campus.

“We saw some increase in our compliance in terms of student vaccinations. We count partial vaccinations as well as full vaccinations,” Gatrell said. “I’m confident there are more students out there who have yet to upload their vaccine cards, and they’re still doing it every day so I encourage you, if you have a student in class have them upload a vaccine card.”

Students and faculty are required to either provide proof of vaccination or take weekly COVID-19 tests on campus in an effort to avoid the spread of the virus.

Gatrell said that just over 71 percent of students and 76 percent of employees have now confirmed that they are vaccinated.

He also reported that the science building which has been in the works since around 2001 is in the “planning and programming phase” and is slated to be completed by 2025.

Todd Bruns, the chair of faculty senate, announced that finalists for the position of campus police chief will be coming to campus for interviews in the next few weeks.

Luke Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].