Following the death of a campus employee, students and staff shared their opinions on how SVSU handles mental health.
Adjunct professor Greg Wright described his overall SVSU experience as being positive.
“I have always felt very welcome and supported by my colleagues and my students,” Wright said. “The general atmosphere is very respectful, although I believe that the institution could and should improve in the way it values and validates faculty and staff.”
He said that while small changes are good, larger changes are needed.
“Little gestures are important, but the larger issues merit more rigorous attention, such as support and security,” he said. “There are a lot of faculty who are dealing with many of their problems silently because academic culture focuses so much on competition instead of support.”
Wright said he did not believe any counseling or support services are offered to him as an adjunct professor. However, he shared his experience helping a student.
“I once had a student who was extremely upset due to a friend committing suicide,” Wright said. “The student was feeling a confusing mix of depression, anger, sadness and grief. … I personally walked the student to the counseling center and explained the situation to them, saying that the student needed immediate help that I could not provide.”
He explained that, while he had done his best to help, the student was ultimately not taken care of.
“I later learned from the student that there was no one available to talk or offer help,” he said. “The student eventually just left the counseling center. I don’t blame anyone for this outcome, but I would like to see all of us do better.”
Students, however, offered a different view. Caroline Sawatzki started a petition urging officials to delay the reopening of campus.
“We understand your desire to keep your academic economy open but are appalled at the lack of compassion and care you are showing to your student population,” Sawatzki stated in the petition. “Students are traumatized by the ‘public safety emergency’ that occurred two days ago — one of our professors took his own life on your campus. This kind, gentle, approachable professor, who was passionate about botany and cared for our greenhouse, is not just an anonymous tragedy to us.”
Nursing student Sydnee Martin also shared her opinion on the counseling center and the resources offered in the wake of the event.
“From what I have seen and heard just in these past couple days, I think SVSU needs to take more action with the mental health of their students and staff,” Martin said. “With what has happened on our campus recently, students have tried calling our counseling office and receive their voice mail telling them that should contact 9-1-1.”
Martin said recent events could have been prevented by having a better support system.
“Regarding [the employee], he felt as if SVSU didn’t value his life,” she said. “With the closed counseling center and opening campus back up on Monday, that clearly shows that his life was not valued by the administration here at SVSU.”
She went on to talk about how this made her feel as a student.
“This is scary for students, myself included, because a lot of us chose to come to SVSU for the tight-knit community, but it feels as though our administration does not care about our mental health, which is truly disappointing,” she said.
Wright said he hopes everyone, including SVSU administration, can learn to value kindness.
“I would like to see people value kindness; it is too rare,” Wright said. “Sadly, that lack of kindness and empathy is not unique to SVSU, but I would love to see SVSU … lead the way by providing more support for mental health resources for faculty, staff and students. Budgetary concerns are unimportant if people are suffering and dying.”