HCC Introduces Student Health Advisory Council

In the wake of turmoil caused by abrupt loss of key staff early last year, as well as high rates of turnover in general, Reed’s Health and Counseling Center (HCC) has gone through a tumultuous restructuring process in an effort to improve their ability to provide enhanced health services to students, as well as to repair trust with the student body. Last spring, the Quest published an article in which then HCC Administrative Services Manager and current HCC Operations Manager Zakiya Rhodes characterized the HCC as well-staffed and ready to provide services but lacking communication with students about the HCC’s improved ability to provide health and wellness services. This semester, HCC staff have been working to improve that communication.

Illustration by Mychal Miller

Illustration by Mychal Miller

In a public Senate meeting back in October, Johanna Workman introduced herself to Reed’s Student Body Senate as the HCC’s new Counseling Services Director. Among her plans to make structural changes to the counseling staff of the HCC, Workman also announced that improving the fraught relationship between students and the HCC was a top priority. At the time, she spoke about feedback forms and surveys sent out to students participating in HCC counseling services — both forms of communication she found helpful while working at the Counseling Center at Georgia Southern University, and which she still intends to implement — but now, there is a new approach that will soon be implemented: a Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). 

To learn more about SHAC, the Quest sat down with Senator and Senate HCC Liaison Billy Fish, who has been very involved in the planning and creation of SHAC. In meetings with Workman, Rhodes, and HCC Medical Services Director Timothie Rochon, Fish introduced the idea of creating an advisory council to the HCC, and later invited Associate Dean of Students for Health & Wellbeing Carrie Baldwin-Sayre as an administrative contact. Baldwin-Sayre wrote a draft of a SHAC charter to propose to the Reed administration. 

Fish then presented parts of the draft that were agreed upon by most or all of the parties involved. “SHAC will be an advisory board composed of a number of students… [the exact number is yet to be determined, but something around six], the HCC leadership, potentially a couple of people from [the] Student Life [Office], and maybe some other people from around campus, like from the Office for Institutional Diversity, maybe staff, maybe faculty,” Fish said.

Which staff and faculty will participate in SHAC meetings is still being decided. “We agreed that students will be the only ones to have voting rights, so the HCC leadership will be ex officio; anyone else who we decide to be there will be ex oficio,” Fish said. “The way we see it functioning is it will be a chance for students to express needs and concerns to the HCC and other related people… and in real time have a structured conversation about how services can be changed.” 

At SHAC meetings, the HCC staff will be able to express their limitations as required by things like state licensure or existing school policies. Fish sees this process as important for students on SHAC to provide recommendations that are actionable and feasible. The students on SHAC will write and vote on recommendations that will then be sent to HCC leadership and Reed administration in the form of formal memos. Fish sees SHAC as functioning similarly to the Student Committee on Academic Policy and Planning where students can make recommendations to campus bodies in a way that is formal and holds administrators accountable while transmitting the needs of students. 

That being said, it is still up in the air exactly what SHAC’s purpose will be. During the recent restructuring of the HCC, the HCC leadership was placed under the administration of Baldwin-Sayre, who oversees all sorts of bodies pertaining to student wellness from the HCC to athletic, fitness, and outdoor programs. It is still unclear whether SHAC will advise HCC policy specifically or student wellness in general because of its close connection with Baldwin-Sayre and the student life division. 

Fish commented that he wants SHAC to focus on HCC policy, at least for the time being, because he sees SHAC as a response to the historical distrust between students and the HCC. However, he also said that the other staff involved in the decision making process surrounding SHAC want SHAC to advise student wellness more generally. Fish wants to see the services of the HCC expand and improve because of SHAC’s recommendations, and he wants to avoid SHAC losing that focus by commenting on other wellness-related organizations like SHARE and Community Safety. He sees these extended functions as important, but should perhaps come after SHAC has addressed the serious needs of the HCC.

Questions regarding the process of appointing leadership to SHAC and compensation for students who sit on SHAC are also still being discussed. All members involved in the decision making process agree on the necessity of SHAC to be a diverse representation of the student body, so the appointment process should somehow reflect that. In recognition of the value of students’ time, as well as an effort not to discourage low-SES students who are more likely to need to spend time working in addition to sitting on SHAC, staff are widely in favor of providing compensation for student SHAC members, but specifics still need to be hammered out. In a past Senate Beat article, Workman said that winter break would be a time when the HCC would take a lot of time to sort itself out structurally while many students were off campus and not in need of the HCC as a resource. Fish also said that positions will be advertised and students will be appointed to SHAC by the spring. This Monday, Nov. 16, a SHAC charter was approved and sent to the administration.

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