Dr. Robert Ernst, University Health Services executive director and associate vice president for Health and Wellness, addressed student concerns about the University’s recent policy change to UHS coverage for sexually transmitted infection testing at Tuesday’s Central Student Government meeting. 


Ernst explained the reasoning behind removing STI testing from the Health and Wellness fee was to allocate funding toward other priorities within UHS, like mental health resources. 


“There’s ongoing concern about student mental health, and we’ve made a number of initiatives at Health Services over the last year trying to elevate physician resources and have plans to grow that,” Ernst said. “There’s always a concern about access to health service in a timely fashion and trying to reduce our wait times. It was really clear to make those investments while, at the same time, being respectful to the growing cost of attendance, many in leadership were expecting we try to tap into alternative revenue sources to try and fund those priorities.”


Ernst addressed student backlash to the policy change by assuring the Assembly student voices were heard. 


“I think the personal stories people have about their anxieties and experiences were sufficient for us to say we can make an amendment to what we’re doing,” Ernst said. “So, the plan would be to try and find some additional resources to address some of those pressing health and wellness issues for students, but we would carve out a not-bill for STIs and other potentially sensitive things.”


Ernst said UHS continues to work toward a long term solution to satisfy student needs. 


“Going forward, carving out the billing for STI testing is going to have us rethink the budget in the near term, and that’s okay — we can still do that with prioritization,” Ernst said. “The plan moving forward would be to work to actually bring the analyzers into our UHS lab. That’s going to take some time, but once we’re able to do that, then we’ll be able to reduce those costs and get back on track from a budget standpoint.”


Following the guest speaker, community members Mozhgan Savabieasfahani and Blaine Coleman spoke urging CSG members to pass a resolution against military aid to Israel. Savabieasfahani and Coleman held signs reading “We are against military aid to Israel,” the phrase they asked CSG members to turn into a resolution. Each community member spoke for three minutes regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict and advocating for the resolution.


Savabieasfahani referenced the divestment resolution passed by CSG in 2017.


“I assure you, you will make headlines — global headlines,” Savabieasfahani said. “What you did with divestment did make headlines, it went all over the world. There are still headlines coming out talking specifically about Michigan. You have this huge power in your hands.” 


CSG President Ben Gerstein then summarized recent initiatives from the executive branch, including taking steps to re-authorize the New York Times Readership Program, a project which provides students access to the New York Times through their University email accounts. 


Gerstein also discussed the introduction of a Well-being Fee Working Group. Originally the Well-being fee, which was added to tuition last year, provided for this group in addition to Counseling and Psychological Services and Maize & Blue Cupboard.


“This group is going to have the goal of improving and enhancing the resources for those two entities on campus, but not through a fee,” Gerstein said. 


Gerstein aims to complete the subsidization of Group-X gym passes to be set up by next Tuesday. CSG is also continuing to work with the Michigan Unions and Libraries to provide more microwaves on campus.


“The Campus Affordability Task Force from the previous year recommended that this is an important fixture for food insecurity on campus as it is a short term project that allows for students who might bring lunch from home because they cannot afford to purchase lunch on campus the opportunity to heat up that lunch in a library or one of the unions,” Gerstein said. 


Additionally, Gerstein spoke about working to revitalize the Leadership Engagement Scholarship, created in 2016 with the goal of eliminating financial barriers for students to be active leaders. Because the money provided in that scholarship has decreased over the years, Gerstein hopes to increase funding for it. 


Gerstein also spoke about goals of expanding the Race and Ethnicity distribution requirement to every school and college within the University, as well as ensuring the current requirement within LSA is as meaningful and up-to-date as possible. 


Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Gerstein’s last name as Gernstein.

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