GSC discusses campus affordability, hears about CAPS collaboration with non-profit

Oct. 19, 2022, 12:39 a.m.

The Graduate Student Council (GSC) brainstormed ways to collect feedback on campus affordability from student leaders and discussed strategies to improve mental health support on campus during its Tuesday meeting. 

Vaden Health Services Senior Advisor for Mental Health and Well-Being Innovation John Austin provided a brief of Stanford Counseling and Psychological Services’ (CAPS’) work with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization that consults with more than 370 colleges and universities to promote holistic wellbeing.

“The Jed Foundation aims to make colleges have better mental health services, less suicide, and a more holistic campus.” Austin said. “There will be many working groups and task forces coming out of the Jed recommendations and initiatives to design the way forward.”

He said the University completed its first year with the Jed Foundation, marking the end of the assessment and strategy development process that is integral to achieving JED campus designation, which the University is committed to gaining over four years.

The University’s view on mental health and well-being has shifted from being centered around CAPS’ clinical procedures to a more preventative, advocacy-focused approach over the first year, Austin said. “We are trying to move mental health conversation away from CAPS and more towards a public health approach so faculty, all staff, parents and families can get help,” Austin said.

Austin delved into recent challenges that CAPS has faced due to issues with worker retention. High costs of living in the Bay Area combined with more opportunities to work remotely or independently seem to be deterring counselors from staying at Stanford, Austin said.

Austin also relayed that Stanford received the results of the Healthy Minds Survey, a prerequisite to becoming a JED campus, on Friday, Oct. 14. The survey was administered in April 2022. According to Austin, Stanford Institutional Research and Decision Support (IR&DS) will soon initiate the process of releasing the survey results and developing relevant response plans.

GSC Treasurer Christie Chang, who is a third-year immunology Ph.D. student, tied the conversation back to affordability on campus. Graduate students at Stanford face similar issues related to high costs of living, making their five to six years on campus increasingly difficult, Chang said.

GSC Co-Chair and third-year aeronautics and astronautics Ph.D. student Jason Anderson said it was a priority for the GSC to increase affordability for graduate students. “Our goal is to have low food pantry usage and an affordable campus,” Anderson said.

Following up on the Bill of Affordability, which the GSC recently unanimously approved, councilors hope to gain insight into equitable solutions from underrepresented groups. Councilors created plans to receive feedback from first-generation low-income (FLI) graduate student groups, the Bechtel International Center and other groups of marginalized graduate students affiliated with the Stanford Law School, Graduate School of Business and Graduate School of Education to better advocate for solutions to financial hardships that graduate students face.

Sakshi was a high school intern for The Daily in summer 2019.

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