Campus-Wide Wi-Fi Outage Affects Students

By Catherine Wasilko

Vol. 82 Issue 6 December 14th 2021

As many students and faculty know, the wifi has frequently been having issues throughout the fall semester. There have been wifi outages, bad connections and hard-to-reach spots where the internet works perfectly. The most recent outage was on Thursday Nov. 11. The outage was campus-wide and affected both students and The Daily Grind. It started around 2:45 p.m, and E. Jennell Sargent sent out an email at 2:59 p.m. that day to let everyone know the Wi-Fi was having issues. As a result, The Daily Grind was unable to make purchases using flex dollars, as the systems were down due to network issues. The Package Center was still able to allow students to receive packages.

Numerous students complained about the Wi-Fi outage. Since this occurred after most classes had ended, students most affected by the outage were attempting  to get homework done after class. However, some students were not as affected by the outage. It appears that the Offshore Sailing Club went out on the water, unaware of the reality of a student’s nightmare on campus. After a few hours, the Wi-Fi started working again around 5:00 p.m. Sargent sent out another email at 4:56 p.m. stating, “The OIT Network team has identified the issue and they are working diligently to resolve it.” The Daily Grind was able to make purchases again and things began to run smoothly as it shifted back to normal.

Sargent sent out an email at 6:04 p.m. giving a second update about the Wi-Fi outage that occurred. In her email, she stated:

“I hope all is well.  Network Service (Internet) and the WiFi is now working.  The Office of Information Technology Network team identified that one of the major core switch equipment (this controls the network) experienced a total malfunction and required replacement.  Fortunately, the Network team noted that a replacement switch device was in stock and they replaced it immediately.  Upon replacing the switch this required the Network team to configure the new device to support the campus network.”

This has been one of many Wi-Fi outages through the fall semester. There have also been critical updates once a month, and simultaneously outages during class times. Although outages have occurred frequently, there haven’t always been emails stating any updates. This has been an issue for students, leading many to complain about work that needs to be submitted online.

As the fall break comes to an end, students may hope for better connections in the spring semester. Sargent is always available to be contacted by email. In her second update about the Wi-Fi, she said, “If you are experiencing any additional network related issues (Internet or WiFi), please do not hesitate to contact me immediately.” While other students may be studying abroad, the ones who continue to live on campus will keep their fingers crossed that the Wi-Fi will be stronger and faster in the spring. Otherwise, students will be used to the same routine of having weaker connections.

Ethics Bowl Team Goes 2-2 at Mid-Atlantic Regionals

By Lily Riesett

Vol. 82 Issue 6 December 14th 2021

Saturday, Nov. 14, the St. Mary’s Ethics Bowl team competed in the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Ethics Bowl hosted by the University of North Georgia. Under the leadership of Assistant Professor of Philosophy Dr. Michael Taber, the Seahawks won the verdict of eight judges and lost the verdict of four. The team competed in four rounds of reasoning and ended up going 2-2. One round was narrowly lost by one point, being “the closest [match] they [the judges] could recall.” The team was also congratulated extensively on their thorough presentation of ideas and decorum during the discussion.

The Ethics Bowl Team is an extension of the Philosophy Department at St. Mary’s. It was founded by the department in 2010 when it began participating in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ethics Bowl. The event is hosted by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, an organization devoted to the advancement of ethics and ethical thinking. This has given the team the opportunity to compete against some of the top academically-ranking schools in the country, such as Duke, Georgetown and UNC Chapel Hill. The team has competed every fall since 2010 in this competition.

The team is composed of five students, ranging from philosophy students to biology majors. The students include Zane Obi, Nnenna Ejikeme, Mollie Rudow, Hannah Yale and Nathan Villiger. The members have been meeting since the beginning of the semester for 4 hours a week to prepare for the competition. 

To prepare for competition in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Ethics bowl, students developed arguments for 15 different prompts. These include whether climbing on indegenous land is morally correct, whether the filibuster is still useful in today’s political environment, if policing should be reformed and whether critical race theory should be banned from being taught in schools. Each student prepared a stance and research for a few of the cases which they presented to the class for them to use during the competition. 

“One of my favorites that we discussed was case number 9, which focuses on the ethics of paying ransom in ransomware attacks,” said sophomore team member Nathan Villiger. These are attacks which encrypt files on devices and render them non-usable. He liked this case because of how topical it was. “We got to apply one of my favorite ethical frameworks, utilitarianism, to the case.” Utilitarianism follows the idea that an action is morally correct based on the level of happiness it produces. Students used frameworks such as this one to make arguments during the cases. 

“We did not grab a spot at the regional competition to continue on at nationals, and therefore we will probably take this semester to recuperate and rebuild our team to what we want to see at nationals in the fall of 2022,” relayed Villiger. Nevertheless, the school is incredibly proud of their hard work during the Mid-Atlantic Regional competition.

SMCM Runs “Through the Lens” Photography Program

By Angelie Roche

Beginning this month, SMCM’s Inclusive Diversity, Equity, Access and Accountability office partnered with the St. Mary’s County Art Council to run a community photography program for underrepresented youth– that is, first-generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, ethnic minorities, and students with disabilities. The program, called Through The Lens, aims to provide mentorship for aspiring photographers ages 16-18. Those who complete the program will learn camera techniques, how to find their own creative voice and how to tell the stories of their unique communities. As an extra incentive, participants in this free program will receive college credits should they attend SMCM in the coming years. 

Professor Tristan Cai of the SMCM Art department is leading the program along with the IDEAA office and six student peer mentors. Cai and IDEAA wanted to find a way to integrate photography and community-building for minority students. This integration of photography and inclusion is new and unique — while there are art programs in St. Mary’s County Public Schools, according to Cai “there is nothing as in-depth as a semester-long program with an intentional mentorship model.” Through The Lens allows SMCM students to work with and act as role models for youths who aspire to go to college and study art like them. Additionally, the project will “allow our underrepresented youths to amplify their voice through a public photography exhibition” once the program is complete. 

The six mentors began their training during the spring 2021 semester, wherein they received credits for CORE-P 201. Now, in the fall, they meet with their high school pupils once a week. The groups are small — each cohort has 5-10 students, allowing for a close-knit environment. Some weekly themes include photo walks in the Great Mills community, brainstorming research projects and Digital Image Editing classes using Adobe Photoshop. By the end of the semester, the high school students will know about lighting techniques, ethics and photography, stories behind pictures and presentation methods, all of which will prepare them for the professional world of photography, in college and beyond. 

Senior Piper Deleon, a Biology major and Filipino American, is one of Through the Lens’ mentors. Along with her peers, she has made and taught lessons to the students regarding photography and the professional world. Her favorite part of the program has been “interact[ing] with the students in-person,” a privilege many are grateful for after a year of Zoom. By meeting face-to-face–or mask-to-mask–mentors and students can form a bond throughout their time together on the program. 

Through the Lens is already off to a great start, and Professor Cai hopes that it will continue in the coming years. At the end of the fall semester, the program will once again be calling for student mentors who will train in spring 2022, so anyone who is interested should lookout for more information regarding Through the Lens in the coming months.

SGA Unmasked

By: Hannah Yale

On Sept. 5, SGA posted a video to their Instagram story with the caption “First exec meeting of the year!” All of the executive members shown in the video are unmasked. The video sparked some concern and confusion among the student body on the mask policies and expectations for clubs and student organizations.

The “Student Policies” section of the SMCM website specifies that “Student Organizations must adhere to policies related to face coverings and social distancing.” The SMCM website expands on this, saying that “[a] mask or face covering must be always worn indoors [in shared spaces] or outdoors when not able to socially distance on St. Mary’s College regardless of vaccinated status.” Exceptions to this policy include individuals who “cannot wear a protective mask due to a medical issue, like trouble breathing or the inability to remove the cover without assistance,” individuals who are alone in an office, and individuals who are eating or drinking; however, individuals are required to return to wearing a mask as soon as they are finished eating or drinking. Masks are also not required in individual dorm rooms, suites, apartments, or townhouses. 

SGA Vice President Dylan Parham said that general meetings are always masked in compliance with campus policy. “The video in question was a separate meeting with just members of the Executive Board in our personal office,” Parham said. Executive meetings happen every Sunday afternoon with SGA’s ten executive members—at the time of the video, there are only nine executive members, as the Senate Leader has not yet been appointed. Parham said that these members “have extensively discussed COVID-19 policies and consider themselves to be in a shared ‘pod’ . . . and masking in the office has been discussed with [the SGA] advisor.”

It is unclear whether SMCM views the actions of the Executive Council as a violation of school policy, especially now that social distancing regulations in personal residences are becoming less strict. In on-campus apartments and townhouses, students are now permitted to have up to 10 guests in their residence. This adds up to a total of 14 or 15 people that can gather in an apartment or townhouse, which is greater than the number of SGA executive members present at their private executive meetings. 

Parham further told The Point News that “SGA supports the mask mandate policy, and many SGA members have actually contributed extensively to the work that SMCM has done to create and implement our COVID-19 safety policies including myself when I was the LQ Senator.”

An anonymous sophomore student questioned the sincerity of SGA Executive Council’s support of the mask mandate. “I don’t understand how they can say that they support the mask mandate if they aren’t following it themselves. What makes them different from any group of friends that can say ‘I’m in a pod’ and use that as an excuse to disregard the mask mandate?” Some students indicated similar sentiments, while still others maintain that the room counts as a private officeand is therefore not a violation of campus policy. The Point News reached out to SGA’s advisor Dean Derek Young for comment but did not receive a reply.

SMCM Philosophy Professor and Ethics Bowl Coach Michael Taber told The Point News that he believes the SGA Executive Council “should have to abide by the same rules that everybody else abides by. The cause of public health on campus is a cause that everyone has to contribute to equally…  this is a teachable moment for all of us.” 

Bon Appetit Hiring Student Workers

By: Angelie Roche

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Bon Appetit — the company that supplies food and dining services for St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) — has been experiencing a staffing shortage. While last year’s restricted dining regulations allowed them to condense their operations, the company is now attempting to provide full service amid the “return to normal” with limited staff.

As campus opens up fully, the Great Room is returning to the self-serve, buffet-style experience from the pre-pandemic years. This includes the return of the Breakfast Nook waffle makers, panini presses, soft-serve ice cream and the omelet station, among many other services. Additionally, patrons may once again serve themselves and food is no longer pre-packaged. 

However, one thing that has not returned to its pre-pandemic condition is the tableware; for a few days at the beginning of the semester there was metal silverware and plates that could be washed and reused, but after less than a week those were replaced by the disposable alternatives that had become ubiquitous in the last year. According to the Bon Appetit staff, this is due to staffing shortages, preventing them from being able to cover several positions. 

These shortages have also become evident in the absence of “Late Night at the Pub,” a well-loved favorite of SMCM upperclassmen. The service, which continued through last year, offered hot food such as pizza, nachos and burgers during weekend nights, and provided a convenient dinner for students living in North Campus housing. Without the necessary workers, though, Bon Appetit has simply not been able to fill those jobs. These features are missed by many students. SMCM Junior Peter Wiley says that “pre-COVID food was definitely better” but that he “understands that Bon Appetit is trying their best at the moment.”

However, at the Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on Sept. 28, it was announced that the Pub would begin offering its Late Night option once again starting Friday, Oct. 1. This new development suggests that staffing problems are already beginning to be solved, and that perhaps soon we will see a return to previous dining operations. 

When asked how she felt about the staffing shortage, Bon Appetit worker Rose simply said, “[the other staff and I] work hard and we do what we gotta do.”
On Sept. 15, the SMCM SGA  sent out a message via their Instagram advertising that Bon Appetit was hiring student workers in order to help open up more dining services on campus. The advertisement says that the work is 2-10 hours a week, and the application deadline is Oct. 8, so students should apply as soon as possible. The steps are as follows: visit altogethergreat.com, click on the “Careers, Job Opportunities, Looking to Join Compass Groups, Hourly” tabs, put “20686” in the “Search Location” bar, and complete required application materials. “After applying,” the graphic says, “[students] will be contacted by the SMCM Bon Appetit General Manager.” The application is also available on HIRESMCM (https://smcm-csm.symplicity.com/), the college website for student jobs.

Historic St. Mary’s Celebrates Indigenous Heritage Day

By: Jennifer Jenkins

On Sept. 11, Historic St Mary’s City (HSMC) celebrated Indigenous Heritage Day. The celebration happens every year, rain or shine. This year’s event featured demonstrations related to archaeology, hide tanning, pottery, wooden canoes and flint knapping. These are traditional crafts that are represented accurately and appropriately. It is important to have both historical and Native professionals who can display Native traditions with the intent of education without trivialization or appropriation. 

Mark Tayc and the Piscataway Nation Singers & Dancers presented a pow wow-style “living history” event to share Native American culture, traditions, and music. The Piscataway Nation Singers & Dancers have appeared on TV specials for Discovery Channel and the History Channel, performances at the Museum of the American Indian in DC, and at national pow-wows and major festivals. During a talk at Hudson Valley Community College, Tayc said, “The media doesn’t portray Natives as positive or accurate. People learn Native American history from cartoons like ‘Pocohontas’, old westerns and sport teams that use our people as mascots.” Audiences who interact with the Piscataway Nation Singers & Dancers get to have an authentic and educational experience.

Indigenous Heritage Day is celebrated annually at HSMC because of St Mary’s City’s history. In 1634, British colonial settlers arrived at St. Clement’s Island in hopes of establishing a settlement that practiced free religion. The settlers were given permission from the Piscataway nation to settle on the land. The Yaocomico tribe helped clear the land for the settlers. Near an old mulberry tree at Church Point, the settlers later traded European tools and cloth with the Yaocomico for the 30-acre land. After the purchase, the town was renamed St. Mary’s City and half the Yaocomico left the land immediately. The other half stayed for one more year in order to grow and harvest crops. During this time, the Yaocomico taught settlers how to cultivate staple crops, what foods to gather, and where to hunt.

While interactions between the settlers at St Mary’s City and the Yaocomico largely remained peaceful, Colonel Edmund Scarborough–an early settler of Virginia–launched a series of unprovoked attacks against the Assateague people. These attacks were called the “Seaside War of 1659” and increased tension between Natives and settlers. Treaties between the Maryland Colony and several tribes were signed in an attempt to keep the peace. 

There were also some Native American reservations established during this period. Because of European influence at this time, the Yaocomico died out during the late 1600s. It is most likely that Eurasian infectious diseases killed the Yaocomico, while encroachment and competition by settlers or other Natives limited their resources.

The Yaocomico were not the only tribe that suffered. It is estimated that about 90% of indigenous people at the time perished from numerous diseases, slavery and war. On Christopher Columbus’ first day in the New World, he had six Natives seized to be used as servants. In what is now known as the Dominican Republic, Natives rebelled against Columbus and were killed as punishment. Furthermore, Columbus marched their dismembered bodies through the streets as a warning to other Natives. 

Indigenous Heritage Day sheds light on the fact that indigenous culture is still alive, despite recurring setbacks since Columbus. It shows a narrative from the indigenous people that has previously been in the shadows through demonstrations, performances and education. 

Title IX and Mandatory Reporter Inconsistencies Among Student Leaders

By: Maggie Warnick

The St. Mary’s College of Maryland Title IX website states that college mandatory reporters are “Faculty, staff, coaches, Public Safety, Resident Assistants (RAs), Residence Hall Coordinators (RHCs), etc.” This definition makes it a bit ambiguous as to who is a mandatory reporter under Title IX, especially for student leaders. Mandatory reporters are required to report the details of any unsafe situation they are told about to Michael Dunn, Title IX coordinator for SMCM. 

Among students in leadership positions there are discrepancies between who receives formal Title IX training and what the protocol is for reporting anything they are told related to sexual assault or harassment. For peer mentors–upperclassmen assigned to new student seminars to “ensure that students are adjusting to the academic expectations of St. Mary’s” according to the St. Mary’s website–their role as it relates to Title IX is especially unclear. 

As of now, peer mentors have received no detailed information regarding their responsibilities in this area. They were all sent a section of the handbook to review that emphasized student confidentiality, but told nothing about Title IX and whether or not peer mentors are mandatory reporters. Darah Schillinger (‘22), a second-time peer mentor, recalled that in the past she was spoken to by a representative of the Title IX office, but did not have any formal training. A Q&A session for the peer mentors with Helen Ann Lawless, Assistant Director of the Office of Title IX Compliance and Training, is scheduled for later in the semester. “If a student came up to me or emailed me telling me something concerning, I might not be equipped to handle it, especially if I were a first-time mentor.” Schillinger went on to explain “I know what I personally would say and do, but it is very unclear to me now if the college wants me to report what I am told and to whom.” 

Emily Frieman (‘22), also a peer mentor, has received Title IX training many times, but for her other roles as a Peer Health Educator, a varsity athlete and a member of the orientation team–not for being a peer mentor. Though she is well versed in the purpose of the Title IX office and the college’s stance on sexual discrimination and harassment, she too is unsure of where peer mentors fit into that, and wishes her role was clearer. “I think that it is important that all student leaders on campus receive the Title IX presentation.” Frieman remarked, “The presentation itself is really great, and while it can be a bit repetitive, it is helpful to know what your responsibilities are if someone were to approach you.” 

On the other hand, career center peer-to-peer mentors were given the Title IX presentation this year on September 8 and 10. Peer-to-peer mentors for the Center for Career and Professional Development are sophomores, juniors and seniors in paid positions who serve as T.A.s in career navigation core classes and assist students in proofreading their professional application materials. Kayla Sherfey (‘22) has held this position for two years, and said that in the Title IX presentation, Lawless made it clear that Career Center mentors are mandatory reporters, and went through what that means and how mentors should proceed if they were presented with sensitive information by another student. 

Despite the requirements put in place for Title IX training among other student leaders, core class peer mentors receive no definitive answer with regard to their place within Title IX and mandatory reporting. Schillinger stated of the college, “They want us to be the bridge between the students and the school or the professor, but how can we be that bridge if we don’t know how we are supposed to handle things students tell us in confidence.”

SMCM Announces Land Acknowledgement

On Aug. 19, 2021, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) sent out a message to students announcing its initiation of a new land acknowledgement and pledge in remembrance of the Indigenous and enslaved peoples who were crucial to the history of the college’s land. 

By Angelie Roche

On Aug. 19, 2021, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) sent out a message to students announcing its initiation of a new land acknowledgment and pledge in remembrance of the Indigenous and enslaved peoples who were crucial to the history of the college’s land. 

The pledge, which will appear in various places around campus and in faculty syllabi, states “We acknowledge that the land on which we are learning, working and gathering today is the ancestral home of the Yacocomico and Piscataway Peoples. We also acknowledge that St. Mary’s City was partly built and sustained by enslaved people of African descent. Through this acknowledgment, we recognize these communities and all those who have been displaced and enslaved through colonization.”

According to Professor Julie King of the anthropology department, this encompasses much of St. Mary’s history which was ignored or forgotten in years past. When English colonizers arrived here, she said, the land was already occupied by several Indigenous groups: the Piscataway in Prince George’s County, the Yacocomico in St. Mary’s City, and the Wicomico in northern Virginia. Each community had a rich and complex history long before European settlement in the 17th century. 

While there have been acknowledgements to Indigenous history in SMCM’s past, the college hopes to continuously recognize and better understand the importance of these groups. One important change this year is the spelling of Yacocomico – as King explained, the college has “ask[ed] Piscataway members, including members who are tribal historians, what they would prefer as the spelling.” 

Enslaved Africans were first brought to Virginia in 1619, and were therefore present in Maryland from the beginning of colonization. King says that the famed Calvert family, who are known for promoting freedom of (Christian) religion, also promoted African slavery in the region. Colonial leaders in Maryland and Virginia also enslaved Indigenous peoples to work on Chesapeake plantations, though little is currently known about this practice. Eventually, much of the labor in and around St. Mary’s was enslaved labor; King states that “On the eve of the American Civil War, more than half the population of St. Mary’s County included enslaved men, women, and children of African descent.”

While this pledge may seem like a simple statement, it holds much meaning and importance to St. Mary’s students as well. King hopes that it will further “raise awareness among students about the rich and complicated history of this special place.” She also points out that, while Maryland is often praised for its promotion of free religion, it must also be recognized as a place that repeatedly “restricted the mobilities and possibilities for Indigenous and African people” by taking advantage of their land, labor, and lives. Maybe, by speaking about this in every class, professors can begin to weave these forgotten parts of history into the minds of their students. 

Some are already eager to do so; just last week, Professor Angela Johnson of the Educational Studies department read the pledge to her Education in America class and told them a bit about what it meant to her. In her words, “We [as teachers] do more than acknowledge this history – we dedicate ourselves to public service because it is the least we can do to make up for it.”

SMCM Reopens to a New “Normal”

By: Angelie Roche

It has now been a year and a half since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and many college students have been itching to “get back to normal.” Others cannot even define what “normal” is, having spent their senior year of high school and/or freshman year of college entirely on Zoom. In light of vaccine availability, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) announced in May that the school would return to being entirely in-person; however, masks would still be required indoors. At that point, it seemed as if the end of the pandemic was in sight; many students left for summer break expecting to come back to the St. Mary’s they left behind in March of 2020.

Over the summer, the coronavirus situation changed yet again. Though the vaccine became widely available to the US public, a number of people were hesitant to get it. As vaccine progress slowed, the more contagious delta variant surged. Still, SMCM had a plan – those who were not vaccinated needed an exemption and are now being tested 2 or 3 times a week via a “walk-through” testing window at the Wellness Center. At the beginning of the semester, the COVID-19 Dashboard introduced a “vaccination rate” statistic—since August 30, it has risen from 83% to 95%. This is a statistic that encompasses all faculty, staff and students, and it has been a source of hope for many. 

However, as of Sept. 17, there are five active cases on campus and two isolation beds in use. Anonymous sources told The Point News that at least one of the cases is an unvaccinated person, who is currently using an isolation ward. According to our sources, two of the other cases attended an off-campus concert where no masks were worn, but they are allegedly vaccinated. Last year when restrictions were heightened and the vaccine was not yet available, the highest number of cases SMCM had at one time was 17. Hopefully, we will never reach that number again. 

For fall 2021, masks are only required indoors and recommended outdoors when social distancing is not possible–whereas they were required everywhere on campus last year–there are no gathering or capacity limits, and the dining hall is fully operational. For sophomores who only experienced the “COVID” version of the college, or were fully online, this change is substantial; to some, St. Mary’s is a completely different place. One sophomore who attended in-person last year admits there were many downsides to beginning college during a pandemic: “Without mid-semester breaks, burnout hit really hard… [especially coping with it] on my own.” Nevertheless, she recognizes the privilege it was to go to a college that did not have to shut down, saying, “I am glad I came on campus and got to have a connected freshman year experience, limited and difficult as it was.”

Despite continued fears about the delta variant, many students and faculty alike are cautiously optimistic about this year. Friends can smile at one another as they pass by on the path; professors can teach to a classroom full of physical students, unencumbered by a screen. If we do our part and wear masks where recommended, avoid large off-campus gatherings, and stay home when symptomatic, we can move forward into a new, post-pandemic college experience.

24/7 Wellness Center Helpline Replaced by My SSP App

The Wellness Center has announced that from this semester onward, the 24/7 Wellness Center Helpline will no longer be in use. Instead, the SGA has invested in an emerging app called My SSP, which is available for free on the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

By Hannah Yale

The Wellness Center has announced that from this semester onward, the 24/7 Wellness Center Helpline will no longer be in use. Instead, the SGA has invested in an emerging app called My SSP, which is available for free on the Apple Store and Google Play Store. Through the app, students can call or chat with a Student Support Counselor 24/7 in real-time or schedule a short-term support session via video or phone. The app also allows students to access LIFT, a fitness app that provides programs customized to personal fitness levels and goals. 

However, this app will not be a replacement for traditional counseling services offered by the Wellness Center, including weekday walk-in appointments between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., urgent appointments from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays, and schedule-ahead appointments.

The My SSP app was created in 2018 as a two-year pilot project between Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the Morneau Shepell company, also known as Lifeworks. 

During My SSP’s pilot run at SFU, an anonymous article was submitted to SFU’s independent student newspaper, The Peak, claiming that from a student’s perspective, there were “a couple of major problems” with the app. The article, titled “My SSP Does Not Work,” explains that the first couple of times the author used My SSP, they used the standard messaging service, where they said, “the [text] responses I was receiving felt impersonal and as if my situation was being shoved into a general template of ‘support.’” The anonymous student elaborated that the one time they did use the calling service, they were connected to a counselor for “ongoing support,” and instead of receiving support during the call, they were booked a phone session with a counselor scheduled for a month in advance. 

Ultimately, the author described the counseling session as “nothing less than a disappointment.” They expressed that they felt like they were being “rushed into dealing with my mental health issues, so that I could ‘get back on my feet.’ . . . [it] seemed like the standard capitalistic ideal for re-grouping workers to make them profitable again.” 

However, SMCM Wellness Center Director Laurie Scherer is hopeful that My SSP will expand student access to mental health services. “I’m glad to have different avenues of access to counseling. Not everybody knows how to navigate a system where you make an appointment, wait, show up, and do traditional counseling. The stigma or the planning ahead that it takes doesn’t work for everyone, so to have immediate response 24/7 is ideal for our campus.” Scherer adds, “We are very grateful to the SGA for spearheading this and purchasing it.”

Scherer explains that the school’s subscription to My SSP was purchased by SGA last year to replace the 24/7 Wellness Center Helpline. According to Scherer, the 24/7 Helpline averaged only 1-2 calls per month. “I don’t know if I could have justified continuing the 24/7 Helpline when it didn’t seem that students were using it.” Like the 24/7 Helpline, the My SSP app is staffed by licensed therapists that are contracted through the company. It is unclear whether students will be able to meet with a specific therapist more than once. 

SGA Secretary and Wellness Committee Chair Fatima Bouzid told The Point News that she is “really happy with the app we chose to replace the 24/7 hotline.” Bouzid’s only concern with My SSP is the possible wait times to be connected to a therapist on the app, since “[in] times of distress, 5 minutes can seem like a long time.” Overall, Bouzid says she hopes that “students feel like they are never alone during this school year since help can be found right on their phones wherever they are.”

Scherer and Bouzid both emphasized the importance of collecting student feedback and reviewing data collected by the app after the first semester of implementation to see if students are using it and whether they like it. My SSP maintains records of users’ contacts, dates, times, and services provided through the app. 

It is possible to keep your information confidential from your school while receiving services through the app by changing the settings in the app. Like with any licensed therapist, discussions with a My SSP advisor and records of how often individuals use the app are confidential, however, there are some circumstances in which Lifeworks has a legal “duty to warn”, such as in situations involving child protection concerns, medical emergencies, danger to public safety, and threats of violence to harm oneself or others.

Scherer is hopeful that the app will allow more SMCM students to access mental health services throughout the school year. “I think the concern about mental health on campus was high before COVID, and [now] I think we all need to join together and address mental health and support each other in every possible way.”