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Penn's administration has responded to an open letter from the Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative that was delivered to Penn President Amy Gutmann last week by a group of Penn students.

Credit: Ilana Wurman , Ilana Wurman, Ilana Wurman

Penn President Amy Gutmann has responded to the open letter from the Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative that was addressed to her last week.

“I have indeed read it and taken it very seriously,” she said. “We’re always open to new ideas.”

Although members of the Initiative requested to meet with Gutmann herself, she explained that administrators and staff who are experienced in handling issues of student mental health would be better suited to meet with students.

The letter urged Gutmann and the University to take decisive action in protecting student mental wellness, outlining six specific proposals along with deadlines for completion. Signatories of the letter included Katherine Hamlett and Linda Douglas, whose sons Timothy Hamlett and Theodric Reed, respectively, are among seven Penn students who died by suicide in the past two years. Student leaders from mental health advocacy groups, Greek organizations, student government and minority councils also signed the letter, along with Daily Pennsylvanian President Matt Mantica.

In an email sent Wednesday morning to the Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative, Provost Vincent Price acknowledged that the administration has received the letter and is open to discussing the issue.

“President Gutmann and I share your deep concern about the well-being of our students — and of all the members of the Penn community,” the email read. “We welcome the further conversations that you have initiated.”

“It’s appropriate for the experts at Penn who are responsible for making sure that we do everything that we should be doing ... to take these suggestions that are in the letter and seriously consider them and determine what needs to be done,” she said.

Later that Wednesday morning, Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum emailed the Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative and its student signatories, inviting them to a meeting on Friday to discuss the issues presented in the letter. In the email, McCoullum mentioned that staff from Counseling and Psychological Services will be in attendance.

That afternoon, members of the Initiative responded to McCoullum’s invitation, asking the administration to share its proposed ideas for improving student mental health in advance of Friday’s meeting.

Members of the Initiative later confirmed with The Daily Pennsylvanian that they will not attend Friday’s meeting unless the administration responds to their request.

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