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Photo: Greg Boyek

The Undergraduate Assembly is pushing for mental health resources to be listed in all undergraduate course syllabi. This comes amid growing conversations around mental health resources at Penn, where 14 students have died by suicide in the last four years. 

The project officially began last year after the UA passed a resolution to encourage professors to include mental health resources in their syllabi. It was developed as a collaborative effort between the UA, Penn Wellness and Penn Benjamins, a peer counseling organization. Both the UA and Penn Benjamins are member groups of Penn Wellness, which has 31 members. 

The Faculty Senate later recommended the proposal to the faculty, UA member and College sophomore Simon Miller said.

While many professors have chosen to incorporate these resources on their own, the UA and Faculty Senate cannot mandate faculty to follow these recommendations.

“It seems there may have been miscommunication with the remaining professors to get them all to include it all in their syllabi,” UA member and Wharton sophomore Jason Kim said. 

Rob Nelson, executive director for education and academic planning in the Office of the Provost, said that in addition to incorporating wellness resources into syllabi, he is interested in incorporating resources into online platforms. 

"CAPS values and appreciates student collaboration around mental health, especially efforts to educate students and communicate about the plentiful resources available across campus," Counseling and Psychological Services Director Bill Alexander said in an email. “Discussion about academic courses and syllabi needs to take place in the Provost’s Office and among faculty.”

Moving forward, members of the UA plan to meet with all undergraduate deans and faculty Wellness Ambassadors, who are CAPS-trained members of staff tasked with promoting student well-being and wellness resources among other faculty, to further publicize the initiative, Miller and Kim said. 

This past March, the Student Committee on Undergraduate Education also recommended in a report that professors use syllabi to demonstrate their willingness to work with students to manage stress and balance academics with personal well-being. 

Wharton and College senior Yana Kaplun, who is the project chair for SCUE's Holistic Education Project, said her organization is examining how to use syllabi to promote conversations between professors and students about mental health.   

SCUE is also thinking about recommending that professors grant an allotted number of deadline extensions in the case of “unforeseen circumstances,” Kaplun said.

“One of the biggest things that we do is tell people the resources that are available,” Co-Director of Penn Benjamins and Wharton senior Phillip Isom said. “There is a big communication problem between students and organizations and faculty, on what are the different actions you can take when you are stressed out, or worse.”

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