University President Steven Knapp committed to moving the University Counseling Center and Student Health Service to campus Tuesday, a powerful endorsement of the Student Association’s top goal.
In an interview with The Hatchet on Tuesday, Knapp declined to specify where or when the health centers will move, but said it would not displace student or academic space. He appointed a committee of staff and students to pin down a specific timeline, cost and location for the centers’ moves from K Street office buildings.
“I think we can find a way to do it, we just needed the will to proceed with it,” Knapp said. “I wasn’t focused on this before the students brought it forward as something to look at.”
The commitment comes one week before the Student Association was going to put the idea to a student-wide vote. Top administrators had mostly backed the idea before, but said that the moves would likely be far off because of space and cost concerns.
Knapp said that by putting similar offices together, “the synergy between them are powerful and make them more accessible.” He pointed to the student life hub, Colonial Crossroads, which opened last year, as an example.
Top health officials at GW like Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine has said UCC benefits from an off-campus location because of privacy concerns surrounding mental health. He has also said SHS’s spot at 2141 K St. gives students faster medical results because of an in-house imaging center, Quest Lab and pharmacy.
Knapp said a new location on campus would still follow privacy regulations, and would even likely grow the amount of space devoted to counseling and health services.
“There’s always a lot of naysaying – ‘What’s going to happen to this and that?'” Knapp said. “But you can find the will to solve those problems and put people in place to do it.”
Now, housing the centers under one roof will give the University the chance to explore “a more integrated care approach” to health services, Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said in a release. Konwerski will chair the committee searching for space.
Konwerski added in an email to The Hatchet that “while finding an appropriate space on campus will always be a challenge on an urban campus like ours, we have been appointed by our university leadership to develop some creative solutions to this project.”
SA president Julia Susuni campaigned on the move in the spring, holding off on other goals to focus on health services. She had previously proposed the engineering building Tompkins Hall as a possible location, which will have some space open up when the Science and Engineering Hall opens in 2015.
“Me and my team worked really hard on the proposal. We met with administrators of all levels and spoke with the Board of Trustees about this issue,” Susuni told The Hatchet. “This move will ensure that students have the best health services and more access to them.”
An eight-person committee, made up of Susuni and top administrators like Konwerski and Senior Associate Vice President of Operations Alicia Knight, will decide where the centers will be located and create an implementation plan.
The centers, located on K Street, are several blocks from the center of campus. The SA will likely vote on a bill Monday to cancel the student referendum on the move.
“There is still a lot more to discuss even if the University made the decision to relocate these services,” Susuni said.
Anuhya Bobba and Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.