Student Initiatives Committee Open Letter

To the Student Body:

 

We, the undersigned students, are pleased to announce the formation of the Student Initiatives Committee (SIC). The Student Initiatives Committee was developed by SGA Senator Alec Bernstein ‘19, as a result of the exhaustive interviews he conducted with constituents in order to gauge trends in student concerns. From these interviews, as well as conversations with campus leaders, the health and safety of the student body were identified as a major source of concern, leading to the development of this committee.

 

From the general topic of health and safety, the scope was narrowed down to three main policy points. Our policy platform is as follows: firstly, the need for better access to emergency contraception, specifically in the form of a vending machine which would dispense this medicine 24/7; secondly, acknowledgement of the cost and necessity of menstrual hygiene products as a burden on students who menstruate; and lastly, the need to vastly improve accessibility to quality mental health services whether it is through subsidizing access to off-site mental health professionals or providing funds to hire more staff or host more hours. These solutions aim to reduce wait times, thereby alleviating the Wellness Center’s burden and increase students opportunity to seek regular help. Ultimately, we seek to provide these services at little to no cost to the student.

 

The committee was organized with the principle of allyship in mind, with a person using their platform to uplift those most impacted, instead of simply speaking for them. In line with this value, the committee is woman-led, though we acknowledge and include the fact that gender nonconforming people are impacted by these issues as well. The committee also represents a range of students, including club leaders, SGA senators, SGA executive board members, involved students, Residence Assistants, Peer Health Educators, Sexual Misconduct Advocacy Resource Team members, the SGA President and the Student Trustee.

 

We would like to quickly elaborate on our three main goals. The emergency contraception vending machine would allow students to access emergency contraception, commonly referred to as Plan B, 24/7. The vending machine would be placed in a public area on campus, allowing students to get and use emergency contraception at any time. Though the Wellness Center stocks emergency contraception, they are only open 8am-5pm weekdays, with no after-hours or weekend service. This presents a unique problem, as the committee acknowledges the fact that the weekends are a prime time for students to be having sex, and possibly having an unsafe sexual experiences. Furthermore, the weekend is also a time period during which instances of sexual assault, specifically rape, seem to more frequently occur. After sexual trauma a person may feel unsafe and/or unable to ask a friend to drive them into town to get the medicine, and as emergency contraception is time sensitive, the sooner they can take it, the better. Both of these scenarios represent a need for full, consistent access to emergency contraception, something the emergency contraception vending machine will allow for. The committee would also like to add that there is plenty of precedent for this machine, as many other colleges have had them installed. We hope our college is similarly dedicated to investing in students health and safety.  

 

The committee has noted the excessive cost burden on students who menstruate, specifically the lack of quality, affordable options for menstrual hygiene products in the Daily Grind. The Wellness Center provides condoms free of charge, an initiative we wholeheartedly support, but we would like to acknowledge that students cannot get products to assist with a monthly occurrence free of cost. We hope to change this in an attempt to lessen the financial burden of college. Furthermore, we propose this initiative with low-income students in mind, as well as those who cannot easily access transportation to purchase these necessary items elsewhere.

 

Lastly, the committee wishes to address the dissatisfaction with the mental health services being offered at our college. We commend and admire the hardworking staff in the Wellness Center, but the frequency of services is quite simply inadequate. A person cannot schedule a bad day or panic attack around the hours and availability of appointments. Many have also commented on the fact that you can only be seen for a counseling session every few weeks, a frequency that does not always address the issues for which a person is seeking help. To that end, we are currently in a dialogue with the administration and the Wellness Center to identify mechanisms to reduce wait times in order to provide adequate and substantive care. Possible solutions could include, but are not limited to: SGA providing subsidies for off-site mental health care, SGA providing subsidies for new mental health professionals or SGA providing subsidies for expanded hours with the current staff. These could be just some of the possible solutions to providing better and more comprehensive mental health care for this community.

 

Our goals may seem ambitious, but we take pride in this fact.  Most of us have spent four years at St. Mary’s College of Maryland feeling like our voices have not been heard by the SGA and the administration and that the student body is unable to affect positive change.  We wish to change this perception. We hope to inspire other students to be actively engaged in the civic community of this campus by demonstrating that we can identify issues and implement solutions. We plan to execute our policy goals by the end of this semester, and we would truly appreciate your support as the student body, as change does result from the hard work of a few concerned individuals, but from the collective action of a dedicated community.

 

We anticipate that you may have questions or concerns, and we will gladly receive them. The committee has set-up an email specifically for this use. It is smcminitiatives@gmail.com, and we will attempt to answer any correspondence in a timely manner. We also encourage you to send emails of support to help us drive home how important these proposals are to the well-being of the student body. Please only direct questions to this email, as we do not plan on using our personal emails for this purpose.  

 

Signed,

Ellie Bauer, Alec Bernstein, Beatrice Burroughs, Victoria Chang, Leah Dighe, Davita Fennell, Kailey Held, Caitlin Henry, Justin Hoobler, Cameron Kelley, Rebecca Malaga, Andrew Messick, Olivia Mouton, Roselyanne Cepero Santos, Morgan Smith, Sarah Casper-Woodhead.

1 Comment

  1. This is a very strong start to an incredible goal — I hope you get all the support, and more, that you guys need. If there is anyway I can help, please let me know.

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