USD Student Government Association saw special guest Debra Robertson, the coordinator of the counseling center, who discussed the understaffing issues at the Student Counseling Center at their weekly meeting Tuesday evening.
Robertson said the counseling center is seeing an increase in students utilizing the centers, and it has a wait list of around 12 students already this week. She said General Activity Fee (GAF) funding will hopefully be adding one or two more counselors to the center to accommodate more students in need of services.
“Our number one priority is staffing, and our second priority is looking at some of the trends of where there are issues in our student body,” Robertson said. “(Because there aren’t enough counselors), we have to decide who needs to be seen now and who can wait. I hate saying that out loud, but it’s true right now.”
Robertson said because of limited counselors, the center is not able to do everything they wish on campus.
“There is so much more than our counseling service could be doing, we just don’t have the hours of funds to do that,” Robertson said. “Even though we are understaffed, I don’t want students to think they can’t utilize our services. Encourage students to utilize this services. Don’t hesitate to go to the service.”
Josh Sorbe, SGA president, said Robertson covered a wide range of concerns that are often brought up by students related to accessibility of the resources.
“She answered a lot of the questions that are asked tonight, as well as highlighted some of the challenges that are facing the counseling center,” Sorbe said. “They are understaffed and giving us the data for utilization, as well as what the wait list looks like; (it) really helps us understand what the current situation is that they face.”
GAF committee and four senators are currently looking at adding one or two counselors to the center, however, space in the Cook House is already limited and they are unsure where the new counselors will be placed.
Robertson said the counseling center would be open to having counselors having offices in other buildings on campuses if they could see an increase in staffing.
“I’ll take the counselors and then we will work to find spaces for them to go,” Robertson said. “I think if we had the counselors, it would be reasonable to determine that we could double the number of students we see in a year.”
Sorbe said an increase of counselors would allow for easier access to counseling at USD and help raise awareness for mental health.
“It is 2018, the time to come forward with mental health issues is now,” Sorbe said. “This is something that the university readily accepts and is ready to take on. I think the climate that we live in now it is okay to talk about mental health, and it’s okay to not be okay. It’s great for the university to be so responsive to that.”
Also at the meeting, Senate bills 85 through 89, which pertained to the name changes of executive senate members, were passed
It was determined by the internal review to change the title of Office Manager to Director of Operations, Business Manager to Director of Finance and External Communications Manager to Director of Communication.
Next week’s meeting will include a panel composed of all eight deans of the universities.
“I think what that is going to do is give us a snapshot of where we’re at academically as a university,” Sorbe said. “You have the heads of the eight schools here provided updates that theoretically covers all academic programs we have available here.”