The proposed changes in the Peer Counselors’ jurisdiction — rescinding the group’s confidentiality, taking away the 24/7 emergency hotline and disbanding their small groups — signal another move by College administrators that fails to address the realities of the student body’s needs.
With only six staff members, the counselors at the Health Center are overburdened. Issues of mental health can be a matter of urgency, and with the high student-to-counselor ratio, some students may be unable to get an appointment when they need one. One student who is unable to get help when they need it is too many. For some students it can be challenging to get into Mount Vernon, or even Columbus for a counseling appointment with a psychologist should they need additional services. Perhaps even the impression that it’s challenging to get an appointment at the counseling center deters some potential patients from coming in to get the help they might need. The Peer Counselors provide a mechanism to get support, and a way to refer students to more substantial help when they see fit.
On the American Psychological Association’s web page for Campus Mental Health, they reference a 2016 survey of students by the American College Health Association. The study found that “52.7 percent of students surveyed reported feeling that things were hopeless and 39.1 percent reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function during the past 12 months.” These statistics are alarming. They signal that college students nationwide need more mental health resources. Kenyon is no different.
Moreover, our campus climate is changing and we are facing new challenges. It can be hard to convey to someone who is not in the classroom, eating in Peirce or participating in campus nightlife the kind of pressures that Kenyon students experience. It’s often easier to talk to a peer about the complexities of sexism when you know they are aware of the nuances at an all-campus party. You can talk to Peer Counselors about problems you’re having with a particular professor, or major, something that counselors may hear about from afar but don’t directly experience. You can count on the PCs to understand the rigor of a Kenyon education and the stress of what might come away from, or after our time on the Hill.
We pride ourselves as a place where students are seen and heard, and that they can make an impact on campus. If we plan to advertise the strength of the Kenyon community to prospective students, Kenyon administrators need to hear us when we tell them they are making a mistake.
We ask Chris Smith, director of the Cox Health and Counseling Center and other College administrators to hear the concerns of the PCs we talked to for our coverage of these changes, and to readjust their approach. In addition, the College must hire more counselors to address the growing needs of students who are experiencing challenges regarding mental health.
The staff editorial was written this week by the executive editors of the Collegian, editors-in-chief Bailey Blaker ’18 and Gabrielle Healy ’18 and managing editor Lauren Eller ’18. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.