Ballot question asks for increased student health fee to hire new CCPH staff

By Patrick Hoff

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

As the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health has increased advertising, and as the social conversation has begun to promote an acceptability of mental illness and taking care of oneself, a growing number of students have flocked to CCPH for assistance.

“Their particular workload has been increasing at a rate they can’t sustain, so the staff at CCPH is really overworked,” Jennifer Raichel, chairwoman of the Undergraduate Experience Committee in the Student Government Association, said. “To get an appointment, it usually takes about a month for anybody to get one … if you call and it’s not life-or-death.”

Gabriel Schmitt, a junior mechanical engineering major, served on the student health advisory committee last year, and through that, discovered some issues that CCPH was facing – namely, a decrepit facility and a lack of staffing. When the vice chancellor informed the committee that the school would be asking for a $7 increase in the semesterly student health fee to help hire staff, Schmitt decided to focus on writing a referendum over the summer for a new health building on campus.

“What the $7 will do is it will increase the semesterly health fee so CCPH can hire three new staff members, which could help take that workload and hopefully shorten wait times for students,” Raichel said.

When Schmitt returned to campus, however, Dr. Harry Rockland-Miller, the director of CCPH, informed him that University of Massachusetts President Robert Caret had vetoed the new funding on the grounds of a fee freeze. Schmitt then began writing a new referendum, this one to increase the student health fee despite the fee freeze by allowing students to vote on the issue.

“CCPH performs … important services for our campus that I think are worth prioritizing,” Schmitt said. “It bodes very poorly for our campus when political pressure, like a fee freeze, reduces the ability for the Center for Psychological Health to … help students.”

The question, which will be posed in next week’s election, is expected to pass, according to Schmitt.

“It’s $14 a year and I haven’t really heard any arguments really that strongly opposed to the increase,” Schmitt said.

He added that if the referendum passes, he expects CCPH would begin the hiring process of three new staff members, since the process takes months, while the Board of Trustees votes on the issue in June or July. Schmitt said that he’s unsure of the specifics, however, since a ballot question has never addressed an increase to the student health fee.

Raichel said most of the SGA Senate supports the referendum.

Schmitt’s second referendum, regarding a new health center, has been placed on the back burner. He hopes to put it on the ballot next election.

Patrick Hoff can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Hoff_Patrick16.