The number of full-time counselors on staff at the Cox Health and Counseling Center is dwindling: Just before spring break, the number dropped from 6 to 4. With a third counselor on the way out, the counseling staff will most likely remain below six full-time counselors for the rest of the semester.
On Wednesday, March 20, Vice President for Student Affairs Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 made the official announcement via a Student-Info email that a third counselor would be leaving the Counseling Center after accepting a position at an independent practice. This counselor will be first transitioning to part-time at the end of this week and will depart at the end of April. A search for two full-time counselors has already begun.
“Obviously, I can’t comment on individual personnel matters,” Bonham said in an interview about the recent departures, “but I can tell you that each of the people who left did so for different reasons, so I think it would be a mistake to try to construct a narrative about that.”
Christopher Smith, director of health and counseling services, also declined to comment on the specific details of the departures.
Following the departures, Bonham reached out to David Walden, a licensed psychologist and the director of the counseling center at Hamilton College, to conduct an external review of the Cox Health and Counseling Center. This review took place during Sunday and Monday of this past week, March 24 and 25. It will result in a list of recommendations for the Counseling Center, though Smith said there is not currently a timeline when the Counseling Center will get these recommendations.
Mike Durham, associate director of counseling services, said this external review was “timely.” The center’s last external review took place in April 2016, with
a report delivered in May 2016. It was conducted by consultants from the College of Wooster, Davidson College and Middlebury College. This report included a recommendation to create Smith’s position, as well as the recommendation to offer a service like ProtoCall, the 24/7 phone line that provides access to a mental health counselor that students can access through calling Campus Safety.
Since the loss of two counselors prior to spring break, Smith and Durham have been exploring opportunities for connecting students to local part-time counseling services.
Smith emphasized that making these connections will have a lasting impact on the resources that the College is able to provide.
“If there ever was an emergency, it’s really important to have those contacts already made because then we can just call — we’ve vetted them already, we can get them here on campus,” Smith said. Additionally, Smith, Bonham and Durham all said that they were hoping to bring in counselors on a part-time basis as soon as possible. Durham said the College is already talking to some potential candidates but that they must first perform background and licensure checks.
“We’re being very careful because we’re not just looking for warm bodies, we want the right people,” Durham said. “You guys matter, so it’s important to have a good match for you and it’s also a good match to work with us.”
Students would be able to access these part-time counselors in the same way that they initiate appointments with the full-time staff and, like with the full-time staff, there would be no cost beyond Kenyon’s Health and Counseling fee to use these resources.
As for bringing the full-time staff back up to full capacity, Smith said the search for two new counselors has already begun. He added that the priority review date is this upcoming weekend and so the search committee — comprised of Smith, Durham, select members of the staff and two student representatives — is already reviewing resumes. Smith said that the likelihood of having a full counseling staff by commencement is low, but he hopes to bring the counseling staff back up to full capacity over the summer.
Smith emphasized that he and Durham are available if students need help connecting to off-campus options, or if they need help determining if their insurance plan would cover off-campus options.
Smith and Durham also encouraged students to reach out to them and tell them what they think the Counseling Center is doing well and where it could use improvement.
The Counseling Center’s regular hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. To get connected to ProtoCall, call Campus Safety at 740-427-5555 and ask to be connected. Other resources for students include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Crisis Text Line, which can be reached by texting 4HOPE to 741741.
Evey Weisblat contributed reporting.