Whether you are a first year student just learning to navigate life at UC Santa Cruz or a returning student taking on new responsibilities, the university lifestyle presents us with new challenges that can impact our success as students. During times of high stress or times of crisis students rely on professional resources available to them. However as some students seek help from our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center, they are often met with long wait times or struggle to find a counselor who they can identify with their cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
This year the Student Union Assembly and the UC Student Association are aiming to reform our student mental health services through the #HowAreYou campaign. Students from across the UC system experience trauma and hardships that challenges their future at the UC. This campaign is aimed at improving the accessibility, outreach, and diversity of our CAPS centers. We want to ensure that our students have adequate resources available for them if they need help, but even further than this we want to guarantee that a student has access to speak face-to-face with a counselor on a timely basis.
UCSA conducted a survey of CAPS centers across the UC system in an effort to identify the biggest areas for improvement. After we gathered our results we graded each CAPS center based on their intake availability process, staff diversity, and on the availability of off-campus services. The average grade for UC CAPS centers was a C. UC Santa Cruz scored average with a C rating.
Our students deserve better than average.
Students need to be assured that if they need assistance from professional counseling and psychological staff that they will be taken care of.We all know at least one friend who has had trouble finding affordable housing or is facing hardship in the classroom. Much of this has an impact on a student’s mental health. Students from marginalized communities face a daily struggle that makes us sometimes hesitant to seek help. The stigma that surrounds mental health services can be alleviated by expanding outreach efforts and hiring staff that identifies with these marginalized communities.
While there are outreach efforts in place through a peer education program, there is a need for greater face-to-face communication with counselors. The issues that face undocumented students, LGBTQ students, black students, among more are incredibly unique and deserve specialized attention. As students learn to navigate their own mental health, the UC should prioritize the money it does have and future funds to improve the current capacity of our CAPS centers.
The results of this survey affirmed what some students suspected of our CAPS centers; they operate over capacity and lack the resources needed to assist each student in a timely manner. With a ‘C’ grading, this certainly means that there is room for improvement. As a campus we face financial and physical limits that prevent us from expanding our CAPS center. Last year’s student services fee increase was partially allocated for our CAPS center, but even this funding increase wasn’t enough to provide for the staff and space needed to care for all students seeking assistance.
We don’t want to discourage from students seeking assistance, far from it. Our services are doing what they can, and students need to know that despite the struggles we face as a campus, there are professionals on campus who have the training and experience to deal with a variety of student’s struggles.
We worked with our CAPS center in the development of this grade to survey what areas of our center can be improved and will continue to work with them to ensure that student concerns are heard. The solutions here at UC Santa Cruz lie in the decreasing of wait times by hiring more staff, while ensuring that staff are equipped with necessary trainings to communicate with students from diverse backgrounds.
Interested in getting involved in our campaign? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A full list and graph of grades across the UC’s can be found here.
UCSA’s Official Statement on Grades can be found here.
Guillermo Rogel is a fourth-year Politics student. He is the Vice President of External Affairs for the Student Union Assembly, and the Board Chair for the UCSA Board of Directors. Art Motta, is a fifth-year transfer student majoring in Politics and Latin American & Latino Studies. He is the Organizing Director for the Student Union Assembly.