Last year, Student Government Association (SGA) president Caleb Weiland and vice president Reagan Kolberg had discussions surrounding student’s mental health and how they could help.
Weiland said there are many processes for students to go through if they have physical ailments like surgery or sickness, but there is nothing in place for those struggling with mental health. Weiland worked on a new university policy to propose to the President’s Executive Committee for what he called, mental health misses.
“We were sitting down talking about mental health and it’s a big topic on campus, obviously, it’s a big topic just in general right now post COVID-19 pandemic,” Weiland said. “The conversation we had is what policies can we advocate for successfully to help alleviate some of the stress and the burden faced on college students today on our campus when it comes to mental health.”
Although Weiland said he recognized many concerns from faculty and administration about possible policy abuse, he said there would be no point in passing policies or laws at all if they are focused on people who will break the policies or laws.
“I was very concerned about the route that we were going to take and if we were going to upset faculty, and so we went to faculty senate because Reagan [Kolberg] and I both sit on faculty senate, and we’ve had a warm welcome with the idea. And in fact, no one had questions. They all were supportive of it,” Weiland said. “A few of them offered academic research that they or their friends have worked on to prove that making attendance in this sense, framing policies like this, actually increased attendance, because it feels like there is more purpose to be in that class and that they want to be in that class.”
For students who have trouble vocalizing why they’re missing class, Weiland said this gives them a way to report it to the proper individuals and receive an excused absence. Weiland said his ideal policy would include day of and in advance reporting. This way, students can use it in case of emergencies or planned events like funerals.
“I would like to say that this would be more of a day of thing, more of like an emergency situation. Not saying that this is only for emergencies but I’m saying that you’re not going to know some days if you wake up and something happens to you and you’re just like, ‘I can’t do it today,’” Weiland said.
Weiland said there are concerns students may abuse the system by lying or using it to recover from a hangover. Regardless of why students are using their mental health miss day, Weiland said it should not deter other students from having the opportunity to miss class for real mental health issues.
“I want students to know about it, it’s a resource for them, it’s a tool for them. And we always call ourselves the coyote community or the coyote family. And this is an olive branch to the student body to say, we hear your pain, we know what you’re going through. We want you here. We want you to enjoy your time here at USD, and here’s a policy to help you. We know it’s not going to be a silver bullet for sure but it shouldn’t take away any intention from how good this policy is going to be for those students,” Weiland said.
Weiland said there will be another meeting with the faculty senate in September or October to discuss details.