Greek life and mental health dominated the conversation at University President Mark Schlissel’s monthly fireside chat Tuesday.
Held in the Michigan Union’s Willis Ward Lounge, students asked Schlissel and E. Royster Harper, vice president of student life, about specific initiatives to improve the mental health services the University offers, and the aftermath of a controversial all-chapter meeting of Greek life members in September.
“I don’t think it was appropriately structured,” Schlissel said of the September meeting. “You can’t very often force people to show up and listen. I was disappointed in the fact that people didn’t listen and showed disrespect.”
In September, Schlissel required all chapters of the University’s Greek community to send at least 70 percent of their members to a meeting in Hill Auditorium, where Schlissel said Greek life culture “devalues” a University degree and voiced his disappointment in the party culture and sexual misconduct that occurs within the Greek community.
LSA sophomore Clare Nienstedt, a member of the University’s Pi Beta Phi chapter, asked Schlissel if anything has improved since the meeting. She also agreed with Schlissel that the meeting wasn’t structured appropriately.
Schlissel said he has since learned more about the positive attributes of Greek life, including the philanthropic work done in the community and the fact that members of the Greek community have higher GPAs then the overall average at the University.
However, he said the University is still working to improve the party culture he voiced dissatisfaction with in September.
“My worry is toxic behavior — the things that put your health at risk and make it difficult for you to make good decisions in a situation,” Schlissel said.
He also pointed to a newly formed 30-member task force charged with suggesting policy reforms for the Greek community. The task force includes former Panhellenic Association President Maddy Walsh and Alex Krupiak, former Interfraternity Council president.
Another area for improvement Schlissel addressed Tuesday was the staffing and organization of the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services.
Both LSA sophomore Kelly Crosson and Business sophomore Sam Orley expressed concern with the stigmatization of mental health on campus and how CAPS can improve as a whole.
Crosson said she had to wait seven weeks for a preliminary appointment at CAPS.
“Your story is really disappointing,” Schlissel said in response.
“I’m a little concerned that there are areas that there is so much need that it’s going to be hard to keep up,” Schlissel added. “There are a lot of mental health challenges that come with being a student here.”
He said the University is currently expanding the CAPS staff not only to have more professionals available to help students, but also to diversify their staff to ensure more identities and backgrounds are represented to help students feel at ease.
Orley, who is a member of Wolverine Wellness, a student group created to promote mental heath resources and destigmatization, said the group hopes more professors will include CAPS information on their syllabi. A discussion also took place about the inclusion of CAPS information on the back of Mcards.
“I believe this can only not happen if someone comes up with a compelling reason for it not to be done,” Schlissel said in support of the Mcard proposition.
Students also asked questions that are often posed at the monthly fireside chat concerning the improvement of the experience of students on North Campus, the ongoing increase of tuition and how to make the campus more diverse.
Throughout the hour-long discussion, Schlissel continued to express his gratitude for the questions posed by students, and urged each student in the room to ask one — causing the event to go over its marketed timeframe.
“I’ve only been here for a year and a half, and I’ve never taught my own class or had advisees, so my own learning about the student community and seeing the campus through your eyes helps me understand the job I have and make this place as good as it needs to be for you, and, more importantly, for those people who come after you,” he said.