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Students Against Wellness Services Outsourcing

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April 2021

Cleveland State University

To: President Sands, Vice President Forrest Faison, Vice President Shannon Greybar Milliken, and the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees

Re: Outsourcing CSU Health & Wellness and Counseling Center Services

We believe in the university’s mission to empower students, create knowledge, engage communities, and shape the world, and are jointly petitioning against the outsourcing of student wellness services on campus and for retaining our well-established Health & Wellness and Counseling Center Services. Our concerns are that outsourcing these services attacks the values of Cleveland State University and undermines what students hold most dear:

Relevance and Community Engagement: Just weeks ago, the Counseling Center spearheaded a Mental Health Awareness week that reached thousands of students and community members. Because the center is funded and supported by staff and faculty, they were able to connect with multiple departments on campus and in the city, modeling for us what being active citizens who work creatively can do. The Counseling Center’s actions not only brought in donations from the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio and Trinity Cathedral for this project, but also strengthened partnerships with those institutions on CSU’s doorstep, drawing positive media attention for the university.

Accessibility, Affordability, and Inclusive Excellence: By outsourcing student health care, the quality of triaging students who need assistance is lost, and the accessibility of students who do not or cannot utilize insurance plans is diminished. The CSU Counseling Center not only provides free access to care, but is able to see students in a timely manner. In addition to this, the Counseling Center works closely with numerous university groups (LGBTQ+ Student Services, Office of Disability Services, CASC, Peer Education, the CARE Team, academic advisors, and more) to ensure that diversity at this institution is maintained through collaborative efforts for all students. Underrepresented students, students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and first-generation students who already experience increased barriers to support will be particularly affected by efforts to outsource care. In 2019-2020, the Counseling Center service statistics show that 33% of clients were first generation students, 30% were LGBTQ students, and 36% were racial/ethnic minority students. Outsourcing wellness services would create additional barriers to care and is not a step in the right direction for ‘putting students first.’

Fiscal Responsibility and Responsiveness: The number of students seen at the CSU Counseling Center has increased approximately 10% every year for the past five years though no additional staffing has been provided. The needs are vast, and the quality of services are imperative. Outsourcing services would also eliminate current training and prevention programming. The CSU Counseling Center trains counseling psychology doctoral students, has graduate assistantship training opportunities, and offers an APA-accredited internship for two interns each year. They also received a $300,000 three-year Garrett Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant to help prevent and address suicide on campus.

Accountability: Because there has been no collaborative effort with the current Counseling Center staff nor relevant faculty and students, and because this change is happening without public knowledge, we question that CSU administration is being responsible with this decision and their actions.

Freedom of Expression: We utilize our right to freedom of expression and appreciate that this is a value of CSU. We ask that you champion our right to freely communicate by honoring our request and maintaining student-centered wellness services on campus.

As a community, we demand that administrators at Cleveland State University reprioritize investing into student well-being in a way that is student-centered. The intention to dismantle well-established Health & Wellness and Counseling Center Services and outsource these services in a time of global pandemic, continued racial injustices, and political tension is unwise and diverges from current best practices. In a 2020 study, the American Psychological Association acknowledged a national mental health crisis which has impacted adult mental health significantly; More so, 87% of college students endorsed significant academic distress and noted there is not enough support in these trying times (APA, 2020). While outsourcing wellness services at any point seems to be a disservice to students, outsourcing these services now could be particularly damaging. While other universities are calling students in by bolstering their already-established wellness services both through funding and programming (Case Western Reserve, Kent State, UNC-Charlotte, and University of San Diego to name a few), CSU is looking to outsource these services to a company that will not be able to personalize student wellness nor allow trusting access to care. Outsourcing wellness services would be a great loss to students in so many ways.

If Cleveland State University is genuinely seeking to be an “Anchor and Beacon Institution” who puts “Students First,” then outsourcing student wellness services is directly misaligned with that goal. We are asking President Sands and administrators to please reconsider the outsourcing of student wellness services. Ultimately, as students we want to make CSU and the greater Cleveland community proud, and we are asking for student-driven support along our educational journeys.

Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to more collaborative conversations in the near future.

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