February Council Meeting Coverage
February 25, 2014, Volume 60, No. 24
President Amy Gutmann announced—at the University Council meeting on February 19—the formation of a new Task Force. She said she and Provost Vincent Price are committed to supporting the Task Force. President Gutmann then asked Dr. Dwight Evans to give a presentation on major, critical issues, suicide/suicide prevention and mental health. Dr. Evans is the Ruth Meltzer Professor, chair of the department of psychiatry and professor of psychiatry, medicine and neuroscience. He explained how suicide is very complicated, highly prevalent and a major public health problem in the United States. He described some common reactions to suicide, noting that it usually produces more anger than any other type of death. Dr. Evans cited a statistic from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that more than 90% of people who take their own lives have an underlying mental disorder at the time of their death, which was never identified in many instances. The primary risk factor for suicide is depression so he urged everyone to recognize the signs and symptoms in themselves and others. He described some of the various campus resources from Active Minds—founded at Penn—to CAPS which has recently added clinical staff and VPUL’s student intervention services.
The Open Forum included several presenters—undergads and graduate students, as well as a Penn alumna/staff person—who spoke about the need for more mental health services and proposals for addressing these issues, with some suggestions and requests to make changes to policies and procedures. One undergraduate student then spoke about political discrimination that he referred to as micro-agresssions or inhospitable statements toward conservatives. Two faculty members spoke about the Tobacco Divestment Proposal which they were in favor of endorsing.
A vote, complete with roll call, was taken on the Tobacco Divestment Proposal, which had been discussed extensively at last month’s Council meeting. Chair of Council Steering Committee Dwight Jaggard first announced that SEC recommends divestment (Almanac February 18, 2014). The result of the Council vote was 51 in favor of divestment, six opposed and 2 abstained. The decision is ultimately in the hands of the University Trustees who have the fiduciary responsibility.
The final order of business was a review and discussion of the findings of the Commission on Student Safety, Alcohol and Campus Life (Almanac February 18, 2014). The Commission focused on five areas: academic impact, facilities, policies and resources, student safety and student experiences and perception.
Selected Additional Initiatives Already Underway:
• Received PA Liquor Control Board Grant to Reduce Off-Campus High-Risk Drinking;
• Developed Student Guidelines for Sexual Violence Policy;
• Hosted Ivy-Plus Student Alcohol Symposium;
• Initiated BAC Pilot led by HUP’s Emergency Department and Student Health Service;
• Formed new partnerships and collaborations to provide education and prevention services.
The Commission’s Recommendations:
• Create additional position to provide student safety education, particularly with regard to preventing interpersonal and sexual violence and hazing.
• Ensure appropriate resources and supports in place to support and extend strategic and programmatic efforts.
• Continue to create, promote and refine efforts to prevent the misuse of alcohol and other drugs.
Related: New Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare