October 28, 2022 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden | Photo by Sam Nystrom Costales
As the weather cools and the days get shorter, Colorado College faces a new season; one of weather, but also one rmarked by the grief and loss the college has recently encountered, encouraging reflection and transformation. After the work of on-campus mental health advocates, the CC Administration has come out with new statements of intent surrounding addressing mental health concerns at the college.
Before the end of Block Two, students received two emails from presidents at the college. President Doré Young of the Colorado College Student Government Association and L. Song Richardson both released statements about the work happening on campus and their respective responses to it, as well as their contributions to that work.
Young’s message conveyed a sense of understanding and community to students from a student leader that represents and acts on their behalf.
To start her letter, Young said “This block for me, Doré, has been wholly overwhelming and my well-being has been low. I am mourning and facing this crisis alongside many of you and managing my responsibilities has been difficult, to say the least.” To some, her letter gave a sense of community from a student organization that is more aligned to the college.
Such a personal and authentic expression is uncommon from some CC leaders, and even despite the circumstances, Young went on to apologize for the lack of communication from CCSGA.
“Communications were low because I decided to take time to process and organize the push and need for change before communicating with the student body. Other figureheads on campus have at least attempted to acknowledge that something happened while we remained silent. I understand that this was irresponsible and unacceptable,” said Young.
While the email might have taken longer to land in their inbox than some students at CC had hoped, it went on to discuss the actions the student government is taking to provide support and resources to students in the near future. Among them, Young writes, “CCSGA has decided to allocate significant funds for individuals and the community to access more off-campus resources.”
While the result of this work is still in flux, as Young recognizes in her email, it is a step to connect a student population who is currently overwhelming the capacity of the counseling center to off-campus resources.
In an interview with The Catalyst, Young spoke about some of the motivations of this email and the significance of speaking only on her behalf. “I aim for honesty above everything else, but respect is also important,” Young said. “Right now, it’s about balancing transparency and where we are in this process.” While the email was sent from CCSGA, Young signed the email as just a student.
“I just needed to say something, and update people…there’s a lot more moving parts than what was mentioned in the email, but we needed to talk about some of the new options,” Young said.
Comparatively, the message from President L. Song Richardson and her cabinet spoke for a larger administrative effort and laid out a more comprehensive and long-term plan that is being discussed. In their email, titled “CC Campus Mental Health Update,” the college administration starts off simply with, “We hear you and see you.”
The message goes on to describe different ways the administration is considering making changes to support mental health on campus. Among those considerations are options to improve or expand peer-to-peer counseling, making a taskforce that will include members from all areas of the CC community, and examining ways to make communications efforts more transparent.
However, much of what was in the email from the CC administration is not yet solidified. The email explained that students can expect to hear future communications with more solid plans coming out early in Block Three.
While students can still anticipate that communication, there are changes the administration has made that will transform the way the school intends to approach mental health on campus.
“Some of the ways in which we communicate were based on our communications with when and how and what we’re actually able to communicate and that’s something we have to engage with the coroner,” said Richardson in an interview with The Catalyst. “We had a recent meeting with the coroner to talk through how the policy and procedures of the coroner may be different when they think about institutions of higher education like Colorado College.”
Alongside this, the administration is going to start using trigger warnings in communications with sensitive material. “We will put in the subject line that there will be sensitive material to follow.” Other solidified plans for addressing the mental health crisis at CC will be sent out within this block.
These two leaders hold different offices and different responsibilities, but they both have been impacted by the circumstances currently affecting the school. Despite their differences in plans and tonality, both presidents agree that this is a situation with one crucial component: extreme urgency.