Best and worst of this week’s headlines

It’s been a busy week of non-coronavirus news at GW.

After a two-year vacancy, officials selected a permanent director of counseling and psychological services at the Colonial Health Center. But the Board of Trustees declined to take a position on a referendum that called on the University to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry in last week’s Student Association election.

Here’s the best and worst of this week’s headlines:

Thumbs up:

Cissy Petty, the vice president for student affairs and dean of students, has been acting as the interim director of the health center for well over a year while balancing multiple other responsibilities. We might not have a permanent CHC head, but filling a vacancy for counseling and psychological services will help prioritize students’ mental health.

The CHC has received complaints against them from students and clinicians since former Mental Health Services Director Silvio Weisner practiced without a license for more than two years. Since then, many students have raised complaints about the accessibility of counselors, lack of services and long wait times.

While the CHC has grown its services to include one-on-one counseling, mental health panels and a 24-hour hotline, there are still areas that need improvement. Students deserve more access to psychologists and psychiatrists who will provide them with the resources they need to maintain good mental health. The CHC also needs to work toward improving the quality of its counselors and ensure every hire is adequately trained to handle mental health issues on a college campus.

Hopefully, appointing a permanent director of counseling and psychological services will bring around the change students deserve.

Thumbs down:

The Board holds a lot of power at the University, and its decision to stay silent on a student-wide vote is telling of trustees’ reluctance to listen to student voice.

The climate crisis is one of the biggest issues impacting students and their future. About 85 percent of students approved a referendum calling for the University to divest from the fossil fuel industry, a vote that followed a week of protests in early February. While the Board created a task force to scope out the possibility of divestment, no trustee will actually say whether they support the cause.

The Board’s refusal to respond to the referendum shows a lack of interest in student voice. The overwhelming support for the referendum was not a surprise – it appeared on the ballot years ago and came after University President Thomas LeBlanc revealed GW’s holdings in fossil fuels. The Board needs to be more proactive in seeking out and responding to the will of students.

Students are paying large amounts of money to be at GW – the very least the Board could do is listen to what students are asking for.

Hannah Thacker, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is the contributing opinions editor.

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