Campus, News

StuGov discusses boosting mental health, increasing diversity, equity, inclusion on campus

The Boston University Student Government Office. BU Student Government endorsed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report and heard committee updates in a meeting Monday night. BRIAN SONG/ DFP FILE

Boston University Student Government’s Senate endorsed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion act and heard committee updates in a meeting Monday night.

The meeting began with a summary and endorsement of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion report conducted by the Unity Group — previously an at-large party for the 2020-2021 school year focused on increasing representation of students of color and prioritizing their needs. 

Samantha Casas, a senior in the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, deputy chief justice and former member of the Unity Group who worked on the act, said she co-ran the year-long research project. Casas said all campus departments were asked about the academic curriculum, the out-of-pocket cost of learning materials and the hiring of teaching staff. 

“What we found at the end of our research was that Boston University’s departments within DEI policies have two key issues,” Casas noted, “communication and consistency.”

StuGov plans to address these issues using accountability and student input as well as structural and cultural changes at both the course and departmental level. 

Long-term goals include funding departmental student libraries to make required texts freely available, campus-wide subscriptions to standardize learning technologies and democratized access to academic property produced at BU.

The proposal called upon University administration to adopt “new policies in the form of DEI policies” with the categories Diversity of Staff, Diversity of Curriculum and Learning Services and Technology in order “to challenge bias, harassment, and discrimination in order to provide equal opportunities and cultivate an environment that is inclusive of and supports all students.”

Casas added that previous members of Unity are “actively meeting” with BU department chairs. 

The act was endorsed by various groups on campus, including Alianza Latina, UMOJA, College of Arts and Sciences Anti-Racist Initiative and Chinese Student Union, among others.

The Senate’s endorsement of the resolution passed with 33 votes in the affirmative.

The meeting went on to discuss senate updates from the Expect More Committee, Mental Health Committee and 16,000 Strong.  

Expect More Committee chair Richard Segalman, a junior in the Questrom School of Business, said the committee is working on a Bus Stop Signage Initiative, collecting data on Behavioral Health Services wait times and addressing issues with international students facing different quarantine guidelines at BU if they have a vaccine not approved by the World Health Organization.

He added that senators should follow the Expect More Committee’s Instagram account @expectmorebu.

Annie Mayne, a junior in the College of Communication, and MJ Atang, a CAS junior, said 16,000 Strong — a committee focused on sexual assault and violence prevention on campus —  plans to host an event called F.R.I.E.S of Consent Nov. 1, an educational event about consent. F.R.I.E.S stands for Freely Given Reversible Informed Enthusiastic and Specific, and also refers to the free french fries offered at the event.

They also mentioned they were drafting a Survivor’s Bill of Rights inspired by legislation passed at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to encourage more survivor-friendly policies.

The Mental Health Committee gave a presentation on specific updates as well. Co-chairs and CAS seniors Hope Wei and Savannah Majarwitz explained their three-pronged approach to addressing mental health this semester through the initiatives Compliments on Campus, Terriers Thrive Together and the Mental Health Fair. 

Compliments on Campus had members of the Mental Health Committee hand out compliments at the George Sherman Union, Wei said. 

“We want to do this to provide a way for students to feel appreciated, as well as know that there’s a committee they can reach out to for resources,” Wei said. 

Wei added they used Compliments on Campus to gather understanding on how BU students were feeling. 

“No matter what day we table the results … around 60% of student responses are always negative,” Wei noted. “That includes answers like stressed, tired … there’s only about 20ish percent that’s positive.”

Majarwitz said the Committee will also focus on collecting more data before moving on to presenting its goals.

“We really want to iron out the point that the University should expand its short-term therapy services to long-term therapy,” Majarwitz said. “Once we collect a substantial amount of information and data we want to reach out to other student groups for their endorsement.”

She added they would be collecting more data at the Mental Health Fair, held Oct. 13 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Marsh Plaza.

Majarwitz said the Mental Health Fair would feature free food and therapy dogs, as well as 25 groups, both national and BU-based organizations. 

The fair is part of the month-long Terriers Thrive Together initiative, a series of mental health and wellness events sponsored by the Mental Health Committee in October.

For more information on Terriers Thrive Together, Wei said senators should follow the MHC Instagram at @bumentalhealth

Abbigale Shi, Career Development Chair of The Daily Free Press’s Board of Directors, is a Student Government Environmental Affairs cabinet staffer. She was not involved in the editing of this article.

Ilana Keusch, staff writer of The Daily Free Press, is a Student Government Associate Justice. She was not involved in the editing or reporting of this article.

One Comment

  1. Bravo! Last year when student gov spoke with us they did not feel the support from admin to really make substantial changes and advocate for better mental health initiatives at BU. Please look at JED foundation as they are specifically there to help campuses thrive in this area and BU attests they are “ partners “ yet not much is evident reflecting the critical guidance and philosophy of JED foundation. Hope and Savannah – please help develop POSTVENTION committee which should already exist as per JED foundation and helps PREVENTION. We can’t afford another near tragedy and communication and support are key after any suicide attempt for weeks even months on end.