Trigger Warning: This article mentions suicide attempts.
This week in ESC, they talked to a representative from University Life about the wellbeing survey and decided to release a statement regarding recent incidents on campus. ESC Bureau Chief Lori Luo reports.
Vice President of Student Affairs Joseph Greenwell (who uses he/him/his pronouns) came to ESC to talk to them about the survey. He began by introducing himself and his experiences to give ESC context as to why he is passionate about his job.
This year is Joseph’s first year here at Columbia, and he started on the first day of NSOP with the class of 2023. Before Columbia, he worked at UC Berkeley and lived in San Francisco for 20 years (Greenwell noted that he brought the weather here and that you’re welcome). Greenwell is really passionate about student wellbeing and student mental health, which form a lens through which he looks at everything else through. Greenwell’s deep care for these topics stem from his own suicide attempt in high school, and he especially wants to destigmatize and encourage discussions around mental health to let people know that they aren’t alone.
Another issue that Greenwell is very passionate about is access to higher education; in fact, he views the education system as a K-16 system instead of a K-12 system. He first handedly knows the importance of higher education through his experiences of growing up in rural Kentucky and going to Vanderbilt on full financial aid. Within access to higher education, Greenwell especially focuses on the transition from high school to college, which can be an intensely difficult and stigmatizing process, especially here at Columbia where many students face new academic pressures and imposter syndrome. Greenwell aims to encourage equity and inclusion and to celebrate diversity in every part of the university.
Greenwell went on to briefly introduce his position and the University Life office as a whole. His the first ever Vice President for student affairs, a new role created that partners with the student life team to look at student life across the institutions: undergraduates, graduate students, and all the various campuses that Columbia University spans. He supports several teams, including the religious life team, student conduct, and the student life team, in starting initiatives, such as the pronoun project. He looks at things through many different lens: a wellness lens, a sexual respect and gender based misconduct lens, and an equity and inclusion lens.
After giving so much of himself, he wanted to ask that in return, ESC promote the wellbeing survey within SEAS. The wellbeing survey looks at campus climate through the before mentioned lenses. It is entirely anonymous and confidential (the university cannot get the information regarding who responded what) and only requires around 20 minutes to take. The data from the survey is examined via a university wide system before being distributed to the deans of each school, who look at the data within a school context.
The information gathered informs the direction of new programs and resource allocation. For instance, the last survey in 2018 suggested a need for more financial literacy. As a result, the school now offers a tool for students to use throughout their lifetime that encourages financial literacy. As an additional incentive, the university gives out prizes through a drawing every monday, including flex money, Hamilton tickets and Yankees tickets. The survey has been running for a week or so and will continue running until March 6th.
ESC asked Greenwell how many students on average take the survey. He told them it depended on the school, but it ranged from 51% to 21% of the students. Usually, they aim for around 33% or a third of each school. When asked about why there were such large disparities in response, Greenwell pointed towards logistics, school size and promotion. In the Mailman School of Public Health (which had the 51% response rate), the student council heavily advocated and promoted the survey. As such, Greenwell feels peer to peer encouragement is important.
Once the survey has ended, the results will be compiled into a journal report and will be sent out via an email. However, school specific info will likely only be available to the deans of each school. If there are any questions, Greenwell told ESC that they (and any students) would be able to find him in 208 or 209 Philosophy. He wears a bowtie everyday for easy recognizability, and he also plans on holding office hours in the future.
Statement on Bias
In response to acts of hate that have recently occured around campus, University Senator Joe Hier wrote a statement that he thinks would mean a lot to the community to put out. President Alina Ying further emphasized that Dean Boyce had sent out a statement where the other deans also signed on, and so she felt that it is important for ESC to send out a statement as well.
ESC read and reviewed the statement, ultimately voting to release it.
What you’ll see if you take the wellbeing survey via Wikimedia