The University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government passed legislation to change the 26-credit rule in the pass/fail policy and held a mental health brainstorming session within the caucus during its senate meeting on Wednesday.
The Scholastic Standards Committee were responding to some concerns from UConn advisors who felt that since pass/fail was extended last year, the intended meaning of the policy has been changed. Last September, pass/fail was moved from the second week of the semester to the 11th week.
“Historically, when they created the policy, it was for juniors and seniors to take exploratory classes. But now they feel it’s turned into a GPA tool or a transcript tool to help students achieve better grades or fix their grade history,” said Abbey Engler, a fifth-semester Scholastic Standards Committee Representative and Undergraduate Student Government senator.
The legislation calls for the University senate to consider removing the requirement in which students must have 26 credits to utilize the pass/fail option. Engler said this would increase accessibility for underclassmen and some transfer students, who either do not have the credits or decide to take a major-related course and realize it isn’t for them.
“There’s really no harm that could be done with this policy, it’s only helping more people access pass/fail. It wouldn’t even change the intended purpose for juniors and seniors to take exploratory classes, since you can only pass/fail up to three times,” Engler said.
The senate gathered in a large circle once the official meeting was convened to continue conversations from the previous caucus, where many ideas centered around mental health.
John Ross, a commuter senator, proposed a male-oriented form of group therapy to discuss issues affecting college-aged men, such as drinking.
“It’s very hard for men to reach out for help, it’s very personal to me,” Ross said.
“there’s really no harm that could be done with this policy, it’s only helping more people access pass/fail. it wouldn’t even change the intended purpose for juniors and seniors to take exploratory classes, since you can only pass/fail up to three times.”Abbey Engler
Other students suggested stretching the focus to include cultural centers on campus, because in many communities of color, there is a stigma around mental health.
Some other ideas proposed by senate members include: creating a UNIV class to educate students on mental health and the correlation between the brain and the rest of the body; being granted at least one ‘mindful day’ per semester; and creating interactive videos to educate students on mental health-related events and resources.
“We can have senators talk about what they’re working on for our social media,” fifth-semester Speaker of the senate Irene Soteriou said. “We’re looking to have videos centering on legislation they just passed, how students can get involved and that helps spread the word so students know the resource is there.”
One issue facing the senators and their initiatives is the understaffed and overworked Student Health and Wellness. There is a shortage in therapists and students have a limited number of sessions they can attend per month, making SHaW not the best resource for long term care.
While many initiatives would benefit from the increased role of psychologists and psychiatrists, they lack the numbers to spread them around. Some senators suggested hosting mental health and crisis training to take some of the burden off of SHaW and be better equipped to support constituents.
“It’s tough because with ShaW being so big, there are always barriers that are really hard for us to tackle but the first step is writing legislation. It could be something as simple as one page, saying ‘SHaW is understaffed, they’re only open in these hours,’” Soteriou said. “But then, using the various committees and senate, seeing how many students have signed on, can be used as additional weight when meeting with administrators. If you have that legislation, it can help you get that foot in the door.”
The senate compiled ideas and potential mental health committee members after the meeting and the conversation amplified many senators’ voices who are passionate about mental health and supporting the UConn student body.
“This is super important, it’s not something we can sit on and wait on for something to happen,” Ross said. “There’s nothing more heartbreaking than getting the news that your friend committed suicide, it’s terrible. I want to do something about this, I’m very passionate and I want to see this all the way.”