Senators Set Out to Improve Campus Health Services

Kris Fraser

The diagnosis is grim for Student Health Services, but three student senators are more optimistic about its prognosis. The recently formed Student Health Working Group, headed by College sophomore Ziya Smallens joined by College junior Peter Arden and College sophomore Mia Wallace, will work this semester to improve campus health services, which many students understand to be ineffectual, inaccessible and inconvenient.

As the chair of the Student Health Working Group, Smallens says his role is to hear student concerns regarding health services and formulate solutions.

“Student health is a bit of a dirty word on campus, and I want to fix that,” Smallens said.

The Student Health Working Group has five major goals: to institute more accommodating walk-in hours, improve transportation offerings for off-campus mental health resources and counseling, implement a peer mentorship program, streamline online resources and improve evaluative resources.

Although the work is already underway, Smallens emphasized that the working group’s projects are at varying stages of development.

“When it comes to evaluative resources, John Harshbarger [director of Student Health and Counseling Services] expressed having someone in-house that can receive student opinions on their service,” Smallens said. He also said that the group is working to simplify online resources, a goal he thinks is achievable in the foreseeable future. “Other things where there isn’t so much progress is transportation. When I talked to Dean [of Students Eric] Estes that seemed to be the least realistic goal, … as it is the one that would require financial capital,” he said.

While Smallens is leading the effort to expand mental health services, Arden has been pushing for reforms to promote physical health and wellness on campus. The two- term senator ran on a platform that emphasized the importance of improving health services on campus and is currently spearheading an effort to add an emergency medical technician course to the College’s offerings.

Arden said that one of the reasons he believes an EMT program is so essential is that it provides an alternative for students who don’t want to or can’t afford to move on to grad school after graduation.

“I’m working with Lorain [County Joint] Vocational School to try and set up a satellite course that would give students a national registry certification to practice as an EMT. Any state that accepts national EMT certification will [allow them to practice as an EMT], so not only could they practice in Ohio, but they could practice [in most of the coun- try],” Arden explained.

Arden said he also hopes to found a student-run EMT service on campus.

“They’d be able to respond quickly and provide care for free. And they’d be able to understand Oberlin values and culture, as well as just have a sensitivity that goes along with being a student caring for a fellow student. I think that’s tremendously efficient,” Arden said.

Oberlin’s current student body includes a number of already-certified EMTs, and Arden hopes to put together a group of 15 or more of these students to form an on-call campus cohort that would function in a similar way to other organizations, such as the HIV Peer Testers.

The ability of senators to effectively lobby for these changes is partially contingent on responses to the student referendum, over- seen by Senate Associate Liaison Wallace. In addition to her regular responsibilities — such as keeping the campus updated on Senate’s progress on key issues and its vision for future reform — Wallace will gather data from referendum responses to help determine which initiatives have the most support from students.

The upcoming referendum will include other health-related questions, such as student opinion on the proposed tobacco ban, which, according to Wallace, will influence the Senate’s decision to either endorse or oppose a policy change. Smallens noted that gaining steam on any of the initiatives will require heightened pressure on College administrators.

“There needs to be pressure on the administration from the student body,” Smallens said. “We need a student movement saying we want this to happen. In that case, if the administration failed to meet the demands of the students, they’dbeheldaccountableforthat. As students, if we go to the administration and take our anger and displeasure and try to engage in a productive dialogue, [we’ll see a response].”