Faculty Senate talks campus mental health


Rob Le Cates

Faculty Senate Chair, Todd Bruns opens the Faculty Senate meeting with the executive reports at Tuesday afternoon. This meeting, the Senate talked about the recent mental health days and the recent Board of Trustees meeting.

Luke Taylor, News Editor

Faculty senate discussed the pre-Thanksgiving mental health days held on campus during its meeting Tuesday.

Members of the senate raised concern about the late notice given to professors about not having classes.

Students were given two days, Nov. 16 and 17, off of class during the week before Thanksgiving break to “provide students the time and space to practice self-care” according to an email from University President David Glassman.

Students with on-campus jobs were still expected to work their scheduled hours and all offices were open as usual.

The campus community was notified about classes being canceled on Nov. 12 in an email from university president David Glassman.

Larry White, an associate professor in the school of business, said that the way the mental health days worked interfered with his class more than necessary.

While Nov. 16 was the first full mental health day, classes specifically did not meet between 5 p.m. on Nov. 15 and 8 a.m. on Nov. 18.

White said that this created an issue with a class he teaches from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays.

After the Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 12, Glassman said that the university chose to have two full days off of classes so that even students who only had classes some days of the week would be able to enjoy time off.

Faculty Senate Chair Todd Bruns said that during his time in education, this was the first time he had seen enough pressure on students that a university would need to take time off for mental health.

“I attended several of the mental health day activities, and I saw it as a very positive pause, a very positive ‘take a moment to breathe’ sort of situation. I literally saw students stress levels coming down during these events,” Bruns said. “And I think it was an extraordinary event that was needed to address this extraordinary situations and circumstances that we were in.”

Senator Steven Scher brought up the idea of having regular mental health days scheduled throughout the semester in the future.

In the Spring 2021 semester, spring break was canceled due to concerns about students traveling during the pandemic. Instead, five mental health days were scheduled spread out throughout the semester so that students would still have the same amount of time off.

“It certainly was easier to do that. It might be worth considering, you know, in a future semester, building in some of the days ahead of time,” Scher said. “If you know every semester there’s going to be three days with no classes or something like that, we can actually make our schedules from semester to semester to incorporate that.”

Linda Holloway, the director of human resources, was the guest speaker at the meeting. Holloway spoke about what resources are available to faculty if they are struggling with mental health issues.

Employees at Eastern can opt into a free Employee Assistance Program which provides problem identification, counseling and referral services for a variety of concerns, including anger management, anxious feelings, conflict at work or home, domestic violence, elder-care issues, family/parenting issues, feelings of worry or the blues, financial concerns, grief/loss, pre- and post-natal concerns, problems with alcohol or drugs and stress.

The old program which Eastern provided, Magellan, offered employees three free sessions per incident.

Eastern is now switching to ComPsych GuidanceResources, which offers five free sessions per incident.

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