Administrators keep University Counseling Center review findings under wraps

Senior administrators are shying away from disclosing the details of a month-long review of the University Counseling Center that ended last week.

The assessment began in mid-December, two weeks after the center’s director John Dages resigned amid complaints of mismanagement from former counselors. The task of carrying out the evaluation was split among three committees – focusing on clinical care, staff operations and outreach, education and prevention – that included students, faculty and UCC staff who opted to participate.

Dean of Students Peter Konwerski, who is overseeing the review along with interim UCC director Mark Levine, declined to specifically discuss the recommendations the pair received Jan. 12. Both also declined to elaborate on the progress of the committees or name the committee chairs leading the review.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said last week Levine and Konwerski were not ready to discuss the results of the review because the recommendations had not been fully evaluated.

Levine, who is also senior associate dean of students, declined to comment on his new role in the center and what adjustments, if any, were made after he entered a purely administrative position Dec. 1. Konwerski, responding on Levine’s behalf, said “clinical operations continue as normal at the UCC.”

The next leader will come into a center that has seen the exodus of 11 counselors since fall 2009, many of whom told The Hatchet that they needed to leave the “hostile working environment” created by Dages, who took the helm in 2009, and Associate Director Barbara Brown. Four out of nine full-time employees left the center between July and September 2011.

One new clinician has recently been hired, Konwerski said.

Konwerski said a national search for the next director will begin once University leaders finish reviewing the recommendations. He added that Human Resources has been “actively engaged” in the review and will collaborate with administrators to write a job description in the near future.

“We envision that it may take some time to recruit, screen, interview and select the best leader to take on this critical role at GW,” Konwerski said.

GW aims to fill the role of director as soon as possible, Konwerski said, but he declined to comment on whether the position would be filled this semester.

Junior Rachel Krausman, a member of the outreach, education and prevention committee, said committee chairs reported to Konwerski and Levine on a regular basis over the last month before submitting final recommendations. The results of the review will identify areas of improvement for current staff as well as the new director, she said.

“The idea was that we were going to do the review in a highly efficient way, in a short time period, before starting the search for the new director,” Krausman said.

Krausman said the outreach committee discussed campus-wide communication strategies to better inform students about the counseling center’s services and encourage students to seek help. The group also recommended creating an evaluation form for clients.

The co-president of Active Minds, a mental health student organization, said she has been “pleasantly surprised” with the administration’s dedication to the review.

“The committee is committed to being very objective. We are critically looking at every aspect. We’ve looked at every detail of the process. It looks like it’s very important for the administration to improve access [to a counselor] as soon as possible,” Krausman said.

Active Minds co-president Amanda Uhme and publicity chair Michael Kessler also worked on the review.

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