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USG discusses mental health policy in light of recent debate

Members of the USG discussed University mental health policy in light of recent wider public discussion of the subject at their weekly senate meeting on Sunday.

U-Councilor Zhan Okuda-Lim ’15 noted that the Mental Health Initiative board was hoping to write an editorial to publish in The Daily Princetonian within the next week to express the USG’s position on mental health policy. However, he said that the board would first have to study effective practices for mental health policy before making recommendations. The op-ed ran on Tuesday.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students Michael Olin is planning to hold focus groups with students to gauge views on the subject, Okuda-Lim added.

USG also discussed how to advertise its own focus groups for students to discuss mental health.

U-Council chair Elan Kugelmass ’14 questioned the motivations behind the University’s demand for medical records upon withdrawn students’ readmission to the University.

“I know of no one in  the Office of [the Dean of Undergraduate Students] who is a psychologist, who is a psychiatrist or has any kind of mental health training that would allow them to make a determination in a way that was superior to that of a mental health professional to inform the decision whether to allow students to return to campus,” Kugelmass said.

U-Councilor Sol Taubin ’16 added that there is no guarantee that students who withdraw from the University voluntarily or involuntarily will be readmitted and said the Mental Health Initiative board should look into the issue.

“The Undergraduate Announcement has a very vague paragraph regarding involuntary withdrawals that none of us could even parse through,” Okuda-Lim said, adding that clarification is needed to ascertain the University’s policy on involuntary withdrawals.

Kugelmass added that a questionnaire would be formulated to obtain clarification from University administrators as to their exact policies on mental health.

USG also addressed an approximately $24,000 surplus in the budget that was left after accounting for the original plan of spending $6,000 on the Dean’s Date celebration. Members proposed purchasing more types of food and food trucks, hiring student bands, a mass purchase of stress balls for students and hosting a thrift sale for Dean’s Date.

However, Deputy Dean of Undergraduate Students Thomas Dunne stepped in to inform USG that he didn’t believe its funds expired at the end of the University fiscal year on June 30 but instead rolled over.

Okuda-Lim requested that treasurer Regina Cai ’15 obtain clarification on whether the funds would roll over.

“Historically, we’ve operated with the understanding that when the University’s fiscal year ends, so does our account essentially,” Okuda-Lim said.

Plans to conduct a survey about grade deflation or ask the University for its own data set were also discussed.

“Students are looking for us to advocate for them, and I do believe most students are against grade deflation,” U-Councilor Dallas Nan ’16 said.

The body also discussed its organizational plans for a reorientation program next fall for readmitted students, using a new statistical test to make policy recommendations regarding the experiences of international students, as well as the possibility of implementing a contest that would award a cash prize to the best new TigerApp.

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