University investigates counseling allegations

Administrators said they have taken strides to strengthen management at the University Counseling Center after complaints from disgruntled former employees surfaced this fall, but widely declined to specifically comment on what those changes are.

After four out of nine full-time employees resigned between July and September citing strife with the leadership, the University created a five-month long improvement plan for director John Dages and associate director Barbara Brown. Administrators declined to comment on how the plan specifically addresses allegations made by departing psychologists of incompetent leadership and inappropriate professional behavior.

The “HR intervention,” overseen by Dean of Students Peter Konwerski and Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine, trains the leaders to better communicate with their staff and handle administrative details more effectively, according to a senior administrator who wished to remain anonymous because of the ongoing evaluation process.

The University official familiar with the improvement plans said it is a standard procedure when GW’s Human Resources department fields complaints about staff members. The training will continue until January, when the leaders will be assessed in their compliance with the University’s expectations.

Konwerski said he is conducting “a thorough review of all concerns regarding the management of the University Counseling Center” and will report his findings and recommendations to University President Steven Knapp, Provost Steven Lerman, and Senior Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak in early January.

The dean of students declined to say if the improvement plan would be adjusted after the out pour of grievances in the last two weeks after a Nov. 17 Hatchet article.

Konwerski said he and Chernak met with the counseling center staff after the story was published to make employees aware that “there are open lines of communication” between the staff and the University’s administrators. Chernak and Konwerski declined to comment on specific feedback gathered from the staff.

Chernak has been keeping tabs on issues in the counseling center throughout the fall, but declined to comment on the University’s specific plans of action related to its management.

Last week, a mental health awareness group on campus launched an online forum to collect feedback about the University Counseling Center for administrative use.

Rachel Krausman, co-founder of GW Active Minds, said the organization was not aware of the departing employees’ complaints before The Hatchet’s story and launched a Google Doc to gather information to share with the University’s and the center’s leadership.

Fifteen students in the past two weeks shared stories about unsatisfactory experiences at the center. The group declined to provide additional details, as the comments were submitted anonymously.

Krausman explained that the group’s goal is not to “effect change in the staffing” at the center.

“We will continue to push for better accessibility in all ways – cost, hours and wait-time – but we do feel that the administration is working hard to alleviate some of these issues,” Krausman said.

Justin Peligri contributed reporting.

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