Counseling Services is failing students

CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

Audit finds mismanagement; town hall fails to address student concerns

Student Health and Counseling Services held a town hall on Tuesday, Feb. 13 to discuss mental health at UC Davis. The forum included Executive Director of Health and Wellness Margaret Walter, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Divisional Resources Cory Vu and Director of Multicultural Services for SHCS Paul Kim. Before a question-and-answer session and public comment session that ended in uproar when the panelists gave unsatisfactory answers to students’ questions and demands, Walter announced that the university had made public an internal audit of UC Davis Counseling Services performed in December of 2017.

The university released the internal audit after it was referenced in this paper, posting it online mere hours before the town hall was scheduled in an attempt to regain control of the story.

Perhaps the university seized the chance to reframe the discussion because the audit is pretty damning.

According to the audit, “in January 2016 […] the Provost documented an agreement with the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs to add 11 new [full-time equivalents] by the end of FY 2017. In response, SHCS hired approximately 10 counselors on a contract basis. […] Only one of the 10 employment contracts was renewed past June 2017.”

The audit found that, among other issues, “Leadership has not articulated a strategic plan for Counseling Services,” “Agreements made with senior leadership for Counseling Services staffing levels have not been accomplished,” “Some current uses of [Mental Health Fee] funds may not be consistent with the rationale for the fee increase” and “Counseling Services’ appointment scheduling policy may present a barrier to some students.”

Simply put, the audit found that Student Health and Counseling Services is failing students.

In response to the shortage of counselors that falls far below the guidelines for clinician to student ratios, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Adela de la Torre said, “We don’t necessarily need to hire more counselors.”

Make no mistake — SHCS absolutely needs to hire more counselors. A lack of clinical staff and scheduling problems make it so that students are not getting the help they need and have already paid for. Mental health issues are on the rise among college students, and for them to go untreated because SHCS and the university are mismanaging funds puts students in harm’s way.

Shame on administrative staff at SHCS for throwing clinical professionals — who are underpaid and working with a skeleton crew of unfilled positions in an extremely taxing job — under the bus, attempting to redirect the conversation to clinicians’ “low productivity” rather than the systemic issues plaguing management and administration. Shame on university leadership for letting students’ critical medical care fall by the wayside while administrative bloat consumes the college and student fees continue to rise. Shame on the administrators present at the panel who evaded students’ questions or failed to address their very real concerns in a substantive way.

Students are hurting, deeply, and those tasked with helping them are twiddling their thumbs.

 

Written by: The Editorial Board