The Associated Students of Madison heard a presentation from University Health Services about coronavirus campus discrimination issues and new mental health protocol Wednesday night.
UHS Executive Director and Associate Vice Chancellor Jake Baggott addressed growing concerns about discrimination against Chinese students. As an ASM rep brought up, the UHS campus-wide emails sent out over the past few weeks addressing the coronavirus on campus were accused of discriminatory undertones singling out Chinese students.
Baggott said UHS designed the emails to inform students and faculty on virus updates, stating in the email that “public health officials advise that there is no need for people without symptoms to wear masks.”
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An ASM representative said that line could sound discriminatory — considering the prevalence of masks in Chinese culture — in that individuals should be discriminated against for following the norms of their home culture.
Baggott acknowledged the misconceptions surrounding the masks, though Baggott said UHS meant well with the message. He said medical data shows “using face masks doesn’t necessarily have the effect that one may hope for.”
“Because you wear a mask, it does not mean you are infected,” Baggott said. “We know that culturally it is very acceptable in many places, and we don’t want to draw conclusions on someone who does that.”
Interim Director of Mental Health Services Andrea Lawson gave a report about new changes to UHS treatment of mental health issues. Lawson attributed a 20% increase in students using mental health services to new policies designed to grow the equitability of access.
Lawson said UHS implemented time-to-appointment decisions, which assess the severity of the student’s mental health needs when scheduling their appointment. Lawson said students at a higher risk of “harm to themselves” are now pushed ahead in line to receive treatment.
“Someone who has depression that’s mild, that’s not affecting their school, is going to have a different wait time or time-to-appointment than someone who’s saying ‘I am having serious thoughts of ending my life today,’” Lawson said. “We will prioritize that person ahead of that other person with a more straight-forward or less impactful symptoms.”
ASM also approved the 2021 fiscal year budgets for the Student Services Finance Committee, the Student Activity Center Governing Board and the Student Judiciary.
ASM also approved a new Special Committee on Campus Alcohol Policy.