Faculty Council discuss mental health, academic issues

The Counseling Center presented information on mental health services to council members.

Faculty Council turned its focus to campus mental health resources and the 2017-18 academic calendar during its Thursday meeting.

Mental Health

Christy Hutton, programming and communications coordinator for the Counseling Center, spoke to the council about the mental health resources available on campus.

“We’re seeing more students developing mental health problems than we ever have,” she said. “At the Counseling Center, we know we can’t take care of this by ourselves. We’ve been trying to figure out how we can help campus help our students.”

Hutton said students who receive mental health services are more likely to stay enrolled in school, maintain relationships and achieve their personal goals.

Hutton provided council members with cards outlining the Counseling Center’s 24-hour crisis hotline and an online screening for symptoms. She said when students call the hotline outside normal business hours, she gets a report the next morning and follows up by returning the student’s call.

Hutton said a new phone line was created for faculty to call so they don’t have to know which campus office to contact if a student needs counseling services. She also clarified that when faculty members contact the Counseling Center, they are allowed to share a student’s name and information without violating FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) if they are acting in the best interest of the student’s well-being.

Academic Updates

The council went on to discuss the 2017-18 academic calendar, and focused on setting a date to start the fall semester.

Angela Speck, astronomy professor and Diversity Enhancement Committee chairwoman, said the planned start date of Monday August 21, 2017 coincides with a total solar eclipse that will be centered over Columbia. She said she predicts the event will quadruple the population in town.

“We want to use it as a way to get people interested in science,” she said. “If we do this right, it could have as big an impact on inspiring people to enter science as the Apollo missions did.”

Speck said she is organizing an event on Faurot Field and working with Columbia Public Schools to plan educational ways to celebrate the event.

Nicole Monnier, associate teaching professor and Academic Affairs Committee chairwoman, suggested starting classes on Tuesday, August 22, 2017 instead. Other faculty members expressed concern over professors that teach Monday-only classes missing two Mondays within three weeks, with Labor Day coming two weeks later.

The calendar will be voted on in a later meeting.

The council also discussed an updated religious observance policy crafted by the Missouri Students Association and other student leadership groups. The new policy includes a set of forms and procedures for students to request excused absences for religious observances.

Monnier said the new procedures, similar to those already used by UM-St. Louis and UM-Kansas City, would provide a set process for students and faculty.

“I don’t think this solves it and makes it 100 percent clear, but I think it’s a step forward in giving us a way to talk about religious observances,” she said.

Campus Issues

Berkley Hudson, chairman of the race relations committee, said he plans to propose the members’ names to the executive committee by April 16 to be approved April 23.

A faculty forum on Title IX will be held on April 7 in Reynolds Alumni Center. Gina Maisto Smith, a lawyer who focuses on institutional responses to sexual misconduct, will provide training and discussion in morning and afternoon sessions.

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