3/24 – 3/30

Coming Soon: MCF Gets a New Name (and a new website)

The Mary Christie Foundation is changing its name. In mid-April, we will become the Mary Christie Institute, which we believe more aptly reflects our role as a “think tank” dedicated to the health and wellbeing of teens and young adults.

With this change, we are also launching a redesigned website that will present all of our work in a searchable, easy-to-use format. The MCFeed will continue as is, as will the Mary Christie Quadcast. MCI will continue to publish news, information and commentary on the issues that impact the health and wellness of young adults in the Mary Christie Quarterly, though the journal will now live on our media site and operate as a digital magazine.

We hope these changes will be valuable to you, our readers and  we welcome your feedback.

Dana Humphrey
MCFeed Editor

Mental and Behavioral Health

Main Stories
Inside Higher Ed covers the story of Yale University taking an unusual step to dispute a social media post regarding a first-year student, Rachael Shaw-Rosenbaum, who recently ended her own life. The post claimed that Yale informed Shaw-Rosenbaum that if she took a leave of absence, she would have to reapply for enrollment. The post also said that she was denied an appeal of the decision. Yale responded that the “allegations are unequivocally false … Rachael made no request for a leave of absence or withdrawal to her dean, nor to any other administrator in the college or Yale Health. Yale College would never deny anyone permission to take time off to address a health concern; anyone who asks for that permission receives it. Students routinely take leaves and withdrawals and return to Yale when they are ready to resume their studies.” The news has renewed discussion about  student mental health at Yale with students expressing disappointments over Yale’s mental health services and grievances with Yale’s medical leave policies in the Yale Daily News. Students report delayed wait times to schedule appointments and short counseling sessions due to the counseling center’s increasing demand. Students also expressed “frustration with the [medical leave] policies that they say can feel overly punitive, isolating and expensive.”

In a recent CNN article, experts and mental health advocates call on the Biden administration to prioritize youth mental health. Aware of the pandemic’s toll on young people’s mental health, the Biden transition team discussed young mental health with young leaders in mid-January over a zoom call. According to CNN, “On that call, Nia West-Bey, a senior policy analyst at the CLSP [Center for Law and Social Policy], stressed five areas the Biden administration could prioritize when it comes to mental health including telehealth, removing law enforcement from mental health calls, investments in community based care and investments across all areas where young people are.” The Biden administration has said it is taking action; the recent relief package includes increased funding for mental health services, including for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, youth suicide prevention and pediatric mental health care access.

WGBH reports a shortage of psychiatric beds and an increased demand for mental health services during COVID-19, according to data from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. Mental health professionals and policy advocates state that long wait times for psychiatric beds is an ongoing issue that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic’s distance protocols. Matt Baskin for WGBH writes, “COVID-19 restrictions have forced facilities to limit rooms that would normally house at least two patients to one person only, drastically reducing the number of available beds.”

Other News
According to NYU News, student health services will now be removing its 10-session limit on counseling sessions this spring semester. The Student Government Assembly’s Health and Wellness Committee Chair, Gavin Arneson, said they have been working with Dr. Zoe Ragouzeos, the Executive Director of Wellness Services, “to bring this initiative and others like it to students to improve mental health resources at NYU in lieu of a traditional spring break.”

College athletes shared with ABC News the effects the pandemic has taken on their mental well-being and their success in their sport. Dr. Sarah Lipson, an assistant professor in the department of health law policy and management at the Boston University School of Public Health, said “For many student-athletes, their sport is a big part of their identity, their community on campus and their daily routine … It will be important to continue to understand the mental health of student athletes in both the short- and long-term and to promote help-seeking for mental health as needed.”

With a grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc., three private universities in Indiana – Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, DePauw University and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College – are creating the MINDful College Connections consortium, which will improve access to mental health services, address best practices, and implement initiatives including training and preventive care.

This past Sunday, the tragic death of student Cory Gallinger at Le Moyne College ignited a campus-wide conversation about mental health, according to Syracuse.com. Approximately a thousand students, faculty, and administrations at Le Moyne organized a vigil where students held demonstrations calling for improved mental health services and signed an online petition calling for improvements.

Florida State University announced Thursday that it will make the Student Resiliency Project  available across the country for other universities to use. The online tool helps students understand the issues they’re going through and how to resolve them

In an Op-Ed in The Daily Princetonian, student Emma Treadway discusses the recent devastating events of gun and anti-Asian violence compounding the state of loss during the pandemic and the Colorado and Atlanta shootings. Treadway announces that the student news publication’s five-day production schedule will be reduced to four to ease the burden.

Marking a year since the onset of the pandemic, WebMD Health News details the student mental health crisis that has accelerated in the past 12 months, reporting that anxiety and depression rates have increased 6.3% between April and December 2020. Mental health experts weigh in on their recommendations for providing support for students.

The University of Maryland’s Counseling Center announces a 12-initiative proposal to improve student accessibility to mental health care. On Tuesday, Dr. Chetan Joshi, the director of the University of Maryland’s counseling center, discussed the plan which aims to better support mental health and disability services. The proposal advocates for immediate drop-in consultations and 35-minute single therapy sessions to help more students get the support they need.

From Illinois to Boston, college students continue to express dismay at the limited time off provided by their colleges and universities this spring. Many say “Wellness Days” do not alleviate the stress and loneliness they’re experiencing. At Emerson College, the Faculty Assembly voted to approve the school’s two spring break alternatives: wellness passes, or one-time excused absences, and a “flexibility week,” which allowed professors to “reduce the pressure of assignments” by extending due dates and other class-specific solutions.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 26 national sororities will vote on April 10 to decide on formal recruitment process policy changes, including the right for individual sororities to determine their definition of a woman. The current organization policy specifies that any woman, “an individual who consistently lives and self-identifies as a woman” can participate in recruitment, which includes transgender women but not non-binary students. The proposed change opens the door for more gender-nonbinary students to join.

In light of the shootings that took place in Atlanta, where six of the victims were Asian women, Diverse Education reports that Asian American faculty are calling on their university campuses to play a larger role in fighting hate. Dr. Russel M. Jeung, chair of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco State University, says “Universities are really critical, because young people are the base of the movement to fight racism.” In March 2020, Jeung co-founded Stop AAPI Hate, an initiative to  record the incidents of anti-Asian harassment, discrimination and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. 3,795 incidents had been reported between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021.

With travel bans still in place for many countries, Inside Higher Ed reports that many international students are uncertain about their enrollments for this fall. Pandemic-related travel bans remain for countries like China and Brazil. The article states that, “The American Council on Education has joined with about 40 other higher education organizations in appealing to the U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security to prioritize processing student visa applications, as well as applications from international students for work authorization.” New international student enrollment numbers have decreased by 72 percent, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Students are criticizing The University of Richmond’s decision to maintain the names of former institution leaders connected to slavery and segregation. The two campus buildings in question, Ryland Hall and Freeman Hall, are named after former rector, Douglas Southall Freeman, who wrote a biography of Confederate general Robert E. Lee, and former president Robert Ryland who owned more than two dozen enslaved people.

The Washington Post reports that Maryland passed legislation to provide $577 million over a decade to the states’ four historically black colleges and universities. The funding will go towards scholarships, faculty, academic programs and marketing at Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The legislation is one step towards resolving a 15-year legal fight in the state over inequitable funding to HBCUs.

In 2018, Nicholas Meriwether, a professor at Shawnee State University, repeatedly misgendered a trans student in his class. He refused her request to address her as a woman, citing his “Christian faith.” The small public university investigated the incident finding that the professor created a “hostile environment” and issued a written warning saying he could be fired or suspended without pay for violating campus nondiscrimination policy. Last week, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Meriwether, writing that he could sue the university over the reprimand for alleged violations of his constitutional rights.

Based on two referendum questions, the vast majority of Brown University students approved of “offering reparations to descendants of enslaved people who were affiliated with the school and its founders.” Nearly 90% of undergraduate students agreed that Brown should make “all possible efforts to identify the descendants of enslaved Africans who were entangled with and/or afflicted by the University and Brown family and their associates,” and 85% agreed that the school “should give reparations to those descendants.”

In an op-ed in the New York Times, columnist Michelle Goldberg writes about Boise State University’s recent decision to suspend dozens of classes dealing with different aspects of diversity. Goldberg explains that these suspensions occurred “the day before the Idaho State Senate voted to cut $409,000 from the school’s budget, an amount meant to reflect what Boise State spends on social justice programs. The budget bill also banned state colleges and universities from using any appropriated funds to ‘support social justice ideology student activities, clubs, events and organizations on campus.’” Goldberg says the situation in Idaho is not unique and argues that the conservative right’s war on critical race theory and social justice ideology threatens academic freedom.

In an Op-Ed published by the Hechinger Report, Su Jin Gatlin Jez, Ph.D., Executive Director of California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy, stresses the importance of hiring and promoting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders into leadership positions. Jez argues that school systems and institutions of higher education have a profound responsibility to negate “discrimination, harassment and violence but also nurture and empower a culture that promotes wellbeing.” Jez discusses constant tropes and issues that inflict the Asian American community, such as the model minority stereotype and the lack of institutional leadership.

Sexual Assault and Title IX

The New York Times reports that The University of Southern California has agreed to pay a settlement of $1.1 billion to former patients of gynecologist Dr. George Tyndall, accused of sexually abusing hundreds of women for over three decades. The most recent settlement involves an $852 million class-action lawsuit. Insider reports it as the “largest sexual abuse payout in history.”  Tyndall remained the only full time gynecologist at USC until his suspension in 2016 after a nurse reported him to a rape crisis center. An internal investigation in 2017 revealed complaints against Tyndall dated back to the 90s. Tyndall “continues to deny any and all allegations.”

Student Success

In an op-ed in the Hechinger Report, Rick Dalton,  CEO and president of CFES Brilliant Pathways, a nonprofit that provides mentoring and college visits to low-income students, lays out ideas for making sure low income students do not indefinitely put off going to college amid steep enrollment drops for this group. Dalton writes that corporations, publicly supported college-access nonprofits and youth groups can modify programs that are already underway to reach many more students.

For the Chronicle of Higher Education podcast, Innovation that Matters, reporter Goldie Blumenstyk talks with Alexandra Bernadotte, founder of the nonprofit Beyond 12, about coaching underrepresented students through college.

College Affordability

The Hechinger Report and the New York Times report that hundreds of thousands of students have borrowed directly from their for-profit colleges for their education. These lending programs typically do not provide safeguards guaranteed by federal loans. Many impose double-digit interest rates, making it difficult or impossible for some students to make their monthly payments. These institutions also can withhold transcripts for non-payment on loans. Of the practice, Ashley Harrington, federal advocacy director for the Center for Responsible Lending, said, “The high default rates and low repayment rates — they factor that in as the cost of doing business, and the students are the ones who lose out.”

Higher Ed Dive reports that nearly 1,200 organizations, including more than 800 colleges and universities, signed onto a letter to Congress urging federal officials to double the maximum value of the federal Pell Grant, and to index it to inflation.

The Education Department announced this week that it will extend the suspension of payments to 1.14 million borrowers in default on federal loans held by private companies. “Our goal is to enable these borrowers who are struggling in default to get the same protections previously made available to tens of millions of other borrowers to help weather the uncertainty of the pandemic,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

The Department of Education announced that it will erase the federal student loan debt of borrowers who are not able to work due to a significant disability. Many of these borrowers were already legally entitled to debt relief through the “Total and Permanent Disability Discharge” program. However, an NPR investigation published more than a year ago found that only 28% of eligible borrowers had their loan erased or were on track to.

Basic Needs

Diverse Education focuses on a report, “Food Insecurity at Urban Universities: Perspectives During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” issued by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities (USU), to examine the pandemic’s impact on food insecurity for college students. In addition to outlining ways urban institutions can address food insecurity, the report also examines student experiences with food insecurity, the effects of COVID-19 on their experience, the impact of food insecurity on student success, and the relationship that systemic racism plays in terms of food insecurity. Institutional leaders in the study outlined nine targeted actions university leaders can take such as “increasing awareness, calling out systemic inequities, creating a culture of care, collaborating with the community, integrating other basic needs and advocating for change.”

Guns on Campus

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a new law, effective June 1, in Montana will allow guns to be carried in all public places, which include university campuses. Montana’s newly elected Republic governor, Greg Gianforte, signed a bill that will allow open and concealed carry guns without regulation from the university. The Board of Regents is considering challenging aspects of the law in court. The state House of Representatives signed a budget plan consisting of $1 million to help the university system implement the law. The money would be designated to “help fund firearms training, metal detectors, gun safes in dorms, and awareness campaigns,” however, the university system will not receive the funding if they choose to challenge the law in court.

Coronavirus: Safety and Reopening

Higher Ed Dive briefs that Rutgers University will require all enrolling students to be vaccinated prior to the upcoming fall semester. Rutgers is the first institution to mandate an official vaccination protocol. Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, says that as a result, “there’ll be increased pressure on schools to take a stance and to be transparent about what they plan on doing in the fall.”

The Chronicle reports that a new study will enroll 12,000 students across 21 universities to examine whether the coronavirus spreads after vaccination. The study, which is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the federal Covid-19 Response Program, kicked off last week.

As vaccine eligibility expands, universities across the country are making plans to vaccinate their students, with some opening up sites on their campus. Administrators hope that by offering shots to their entire campus community, they will be able to safely reopen in the fall.

Inside Higher Ed reports changes in planning commencement activities and fall semester classes. As states continue to loosen restrictions, colleges and universities begin planning for more in-person graduation ceremonies. With various institutions monitoring safety conditions, university officials examine ways to accommodate students through virtual ceremonies. According to a survey by Widener University, 70 percent of seniors responded wanting an in-person graduation ceremony.