O n Wednesday, the University announced the creati on of the Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare, a commission responsible for assessing the state of mental health resources at Penn and releasing a report in 2015 with their findings and recommendations. This was big news - big enough to warrant an email from Amy Gutmann to the entire undergraduate population - and for good reason: Students have been speaking out about the needed improvements in Penn’s mental health support system for years now , with criticism becoming particularly urgent after a number of recent student deaths.
The task force is certainly not lacking in credentials. It will be co-chaired by former School of Arts and Sciences Dean Rebecca Bushnell and Director of Education for the Department of Psychiatry Anthony Rostain.
Despite the abundance of degrees the committee members hold, however, there’s one glaring, crucial, inexcusable hole in this task force: a student voice. Indeed, on a committee responsible for assessing the state of mental health resources for students at Penn, there sit a whopping total of zero students.
No one on the committee has ever tried to schedule an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services. No one on the committee has ever attempted to juggle classes, extracurriculars and mental illness at Penn (at least, not in the last decade). No one on the committee has firsthand experience with the student resources they have been put in charge of evaluating and improving.
This is an unacceptable oversight, and the University should make it a priority to add students to the committee. Yes, we are proud of the University for demonstrating its commitment to reassessing the state of mental health services at Penn. And we’re glad that they have ma de it a time-sensitive, public priority. But without even a single student voice involved in a conversation that is fundamentally about Penn students - with countless students’ well-being at stake, no less - it’s hard to see this task force succeeding in the way it needs to.