The Student Association wants to catapult one big issue to the top of GW’s agenda: bringing Student Health Service and the University Counseling Center to campus.
We laud this pursuit. Offices that serve students’ physical and mental health need stronger visibility. With these offices so far off campus, it is too easy for students to sidestep these important issues.
With the SA approving a measure last week asking for a student vote to gauge support, the campus should want to come out in strong favor.
But because this proposal will cost millions of dollars and require valuable campus space, we also have big questions. And so should students.
Student leaders still have big questions to answer. How much would this move potentially cost? Where could the office possibly go? What other programs or offices would it displace?
Students should also know that this vote will help set the SA’s agenda not only for this year, but likely for future administrations. An effort to move health services to campus will take up time that student advocates otherwise would spend lobbying on other priorities.
For that reason, student leaders must present a clear, step-by-step plan of how to achieve their goals.
We hope to see these answers coming from senators and out of a newly created a Health and Wellness Task Force over the coming months.
Clearly, a move like this will not come cheap, and that’s been acknowledged by senior associate dean Mark Levine, who supervises student wellness. He also said, however, that he’d be open to the move, and that health and wellness is “an important issue for the student community.”
When it comes to something as important as student health, a high cost shouldn’t stand in the way of improving for GW, especially if this is a long-term goal. It’s something that SA leaders should work hard to convince GW leaders to rally behind.
And we all know campus is crowded. Though the SA does not have to come up with a definitive location for these services, ideas and potential openings should be compiled to show the student body at large that the plan is more than a pipe dream. Once that happens, it’s in the hands of top administrators and the Board of Trustees to make the move possible.
Further, the SA should address head-on some of the opposition surrounding the initiative to maximize student support. Susuni and other leaders should make the case that moving SHS and UCC isn’t merely about accommodating students’ laziness. For physically disabled students or seriously ill students, the difference in location determines how quickly and effectively they receive much-needed care.
Of course, a change this large in scope will take a long time. That’s understandable. Current students have seen what can be done if student leaders think long term: The $16 million Gelman Library renovation, which opened this fall, was the brainchild of SA leaders from the 2009-10 school year.
SA leaders have laid a strong foundation. But they still have major questions to answer to convince the student body that their ideas are feasible.
If the SA can clear up student concerns, moving SHS and UCC to a centralized campus location is the next long-term project to pursue. It would bring these offices’ valuable services closer to students, making HIV tests, free counseling and regular check-ups much easier to access.