Penn's new wellness website was unveiled last week, and so far students and wellness groups have had mixed reactions.
The website — which aims to streamline all of the University’s mental health resources, events, and news — is one of the wellness initiatives announced after last October's Campus Conversation by President Amy Gutmann on Jan. 23 in an email to the Penn community.
Some student groups are fans of the website since they consistently are listed as resources for mental health on campus. Penn Benjamins peer counselor and College senior Elena Schiavone said this has not always been the case, especially in some emails the University sends out listing resources to the campus community.
“Sometimes we are listed and sometimes we’re not. That’s frustrating because they should have an official list that is comprehensive,” Schiavone said. “It doesn’t hurt to have this cohesive website where everything is brought up front.”
The website organizes the topic of wellness into eight categories: emotional, physical, mental, social, sexual, spiritual, financial, and occupational. Wharton freshman Alan Wang said the categories are helpful to students who would not otherwise know about certain resources.
The website also has a section for students to submit ideas on how to improve both the site and general wellness at Penn.
“I would not have thought about occupational wellness before,” Wang said.
Still, some students take issue with the rigidness of the categories. Schiavone said it discourages overlap between categories since organizations and clubs on campus are generally listed under one of the eight wellness categories only. Penn Benjamins, for example, is listed only under "mental," while Schiavone said it should be under the "emotional" wellness category as well.
“People who don’t necessarily want to go through a mental issue that they feel is clinical, but still feel emotionally unwell, could get to us through there,” Schiavone said.
College freshman Daniel Gordon, a member of the Student Committee of Undergraduate Education, said that more work should be done to promote the website. Currently, the website does not appear on the first page of a Google search for “Wellness at Penn," which is the name of the website.
“Besides that original email we haven’t heard much about it at all,” Gordon said. “RAs and GAs can also disseminate information, having that more personal connection from someone who knows you very well is much a much stronger way to achieve this.”
Students have also said that the website is only a surface-level response to more deep-rooted problems that affect mental health, particularly academic policies. “Weed out” courses and short breaks are just some of the issues students have cited in the past.
“I don’t really think it’s getting to the root of issue. These resources have already been listed for Penn so essentially it’s like an online brochure,” Schiavone said. “There are some things that are going to take a lot of time and discussions with higher ups that are in charge of the systemic aspects of academics at Penn.”
Still, Schiavone added that the website is a “step in the right direction.”
“I don’t want to come across as pessimistic because if we react negatively to the changes they make and the money they provide to wellness, it’s going to stop encouraging them to continue to do so,” Schiavone said.
Both students from Penn Wellness and Penn Benjamins said the effort made by the administration is worth noting and has the potential to drive dialogue.
“I just hope students can realize how much administrators really do care and how much they’re trying to do what’s in their power to hear us out,” Penn Wellness co-chair and College junior Serena Vargulick said. “There’s only so much that can be presented to you and then to a certain point it’s on you to be the one to reach out and take advantage of what we do have available.”
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