USG ushers in plans for syllabus database and mental health training

Photo of USG offices from the outside. The USG passes two pieces of legislation Wednesday night. Photo by Eric Wang/The Daily Campus.

The University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government Senate passed two pieces of legislation Wednesday night, which would provide a digital archive of course syllabi and mandatory mental health training for staff, faculty and students. 

In two unanimous votes, the Senate passed “A Statement of Position Regarding a University-Wide Syllabus Repository” and “Statement Regarding Revamped Mental Health Training Across the University of Connecticut.” 

Under the Syllabus Repository act, students registering for classes would gain access to syllabi. The co-author of the bill, Benjamin Keilty, a second-semester mathematics major, said the Registrar’s Office and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning expressed strong support for the USG syllabus database proposal. 

Keilty said the Registrar would integrate the repository into a new registration software they are currently crafting. The database could be ready as early as next year, Keilty said, just in time for Fall 2022 course registration. 

“Students often have little information about what a class will entail beyond the description given in the UConn Catalog. Some courses have not seen their catalog copies updated in decades, and over time the actual content of some courses has diverged from the course descriptions,” the legislation, written by Keilty and Katherine Spinnato, a fourth-semester history major, said. “A database of all past and proposed syllabi for all UConn classes in order to allow students the opportunity to make informed decisions about courses, modalities, and professors during course selection.” 

The Mental Health Training act creates a mandatory, module-based training program similar to AlcoholEdu. Spinnato, a co-author of the legislation, said UConn Student Health and Wellness is currently working to create and implement this program for the university.  

Students and university employees will be required to complete a module on “Societal Experiences, Cultural Stigma, and Intersectionality,” focusing on LGBTQ+, international, immigrant, BIPOC and religious minority communities, and students with disabilities. Another module titled “Financial Distress” will discuss the effect of university fees, housing and food insecurity, and students in poverty.  

In addition to these two modules, UConn faculty must complete “Mental Health and Academics,” which discusses “COVID’s impact on both academics and mental health” and “[w]ays to accommodate students when they express that they need a break due to mental health purpose.”  

“There is currently inconsistent training for staff, faculty, and students in regards to supporting those struggling with mental health. This inconsistency creates confusion, lack of consistent and fair treatment, and inhibits students from effectively getting the help they need in a timely manner,” the legislation reads. “The pandemic has exacerbated a concern for students’ mental health needs and how it impacts their undergraduate experience.” 

The legislation states that this training aims to educate “Storrs and all regional campus faculty, staff, any employees at the university, and incoming students on the importance of mental health and holistic health.”  

Spinnato said that the creation of this training program is in its beginning stages at UConn SHaW. She said module topics and subsections could change. The authors of the legislation did not provide a date for implementation. 

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