The University of Michigan Senate Assembly met in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building Monday afternoon to hear from Tom Waldecker, director of the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office, about faculty resources for mental well-being. The assembly also continued a discussion from previous meetings about faculty concerns related to meeting student accommodations.
FASCCO is a U-M office that assists staff and faculty in resolving personal or work-related issues that concern mental wellness. The office provides services ranging from counseling to hosting support groups and assisting with returning to work after an extended leave. On behalf of FASCCO, Waldecker encouraged faculty members to use the office’s services to access mental health care.
“We have a stigma around mental health,” Waldecker said. “We all have something we don’t get along with, a colleague, somebody’s frustrating us … a family issue. It may not be a traditional mental health issue, but part of our job is to help people with daily struggles, whatever they may be.”
Waldecker said FASCCO offers five free counseling sessions and can refer U-M faculty and staff to other therapists for additional care if necessary. Nationwide, the demand for therapy has been increasing during the pandemic, Waldecker explained. He said FASCCO is prepared to help in situations where faculty might have difficulty trying to get in contact with local mental health clinics.
“I know there’s been a surge in the last few years, particularly since COVID-19 hit. Everybody’s going to therapy, and lots of clinics in the community are full,” Waldecker said. “So even if you didn’t want to use our services, per se, maybe you just want the name of somebody who has an opening in a relatively near future. We can help you with that.”
Waldecker said their office is prepared to help faculty members, particularly younger hires, overcome imposter syndrome as they adjust to new roles.
“You could be having imposter syndrome, particularly new faculty, a lot of postdocs contact us around that,” Waldecker said. “(Among) the current issues we deal with, procrastination and imposter syndrome are pretty popular with younger faculty living at work.”
The assembly then discussed issues that some faculty members face when granting accommodations for students with disabilities, a topic that was initially discussed at the Senate Assembly meeting last month. At the September Senate Assembly meeting, some members raised concerns about fulfilling accommodation requests for exams and assignments without creating undue burden on faculty.
Keith Duncan, Medical School associate professor, added to the discussion explaining that he and his colleagues have faced difficulties reserving rooms and securing proctors in efforts to fulfill student requests for separate testing rooms during course exams. Duncan identified some technical burdens that faculty faced when trying to ensure that all student accommodations were met.
“We have been getting a lot of students that want separate rooms for testing,” Duncan said. “(It) has been a little harder to reserve the room and have a proctor and some of our faculty … are trying to navigate that.”
History associate professor Jason Young said he has noticed a growing number of varying accommodation requests over the past couple years. For example, he said he has recently received more requests for double and triple time on tests, while in the past requests were typically for time and a half. Young said one possible solution is to make Services for Students with Disabilities a centralized place for providing accommodation resources in addition to processing accommodation requests. Currently, professors are generally responsible for collecting documentation for accommodations and ensuring that individual student needs are met.
“It would be good if SSD could be the place not only to help students communicate their needs, but also to provide space for testing,” Young said. “That would alleviate some of the concerns around trying to find different exam spaces. I don’t know exactly what that would look like or if it would even be feasible, but those are things that are difficult for professors to solve on the fly.”