Letter to the Editor: Response to mental health fee criticism

This piece was submitted by senior Joe Slama, student senator and 2017-18 chair of health, wellness, and safety.

To the editors:

The April 18 opinion piece regarding the health fee increase was saddening in its misinformation and lack of research.

Firstly, contrary to the $62,000 stated in the April 18 piece, the fee should raise approximately $124,000 per year (using the math employed by the writer), as the fee is assessed every semester, not year. I refer readers to the ballot language (which was mysteriously lacking from the very piece critiquing it): “I support raising the Student Health Fee by $10 per semester, to total $37 per semester, to increase access to psychological and/or psychiatric care through University Counseling Services.” $124,000 is much more substantial than the $62,000 reported.

Secondly, the piece is uninformed as to how student fees operate. Student Government is not a “middle-man,” as was suggested. Fee money never passes through our organization’s budget except the fraction allotted us in the Student Activities Fee.

Rather, Student Senate is the agent behind this fee, as student fees can only be created or raised at the initiative of the Senate. We are not a middle-man, but instead the overseer of these fees, ensuring that student money benefits causes supported by the students.

The question “what can we do?” must certainly be asked in a crisis of such magnitude. This issue is complex and multi-faceted, and a multi-faceted response is required. One essential facet is quality and accessible clinical services, and it is this facet which this fee seeks to address.

All of this information, from the math behind the fee to the workings of its assessment, was missing in the piece which sought to critique said fee’s proposal. The opinion references several persons and entities, among them Dave Rector, vice president for administration finance and planning, UCS and Student Government, whose input could have clarified the misconceptions published and disseminated on April 18.

As a member of Student Government, I am disappointed in The Index for not contacting the people behind the story they were reporting.

I am disappointed in the publication of a piece which pleads, “Seriously, if you have an explanation, let me know,” rather than consulting sources to get the facts straight and the story right.

I firmly agree that mental health has become a “god term;” it deeply concerns me that the label “mental health” seemingly sanctifies any agenda.

It is for this reason that, when a fee slated to help improve mental health comes before the student body, I hope that my fellow students look to inform themselves before casting their vote. It is frustrating, therefore, when our newspaper delivers incorrect claims and unresearched assumptions on such a critical issue.

It is imperative that The Index and the Student Government work as partners in creating communication channels that advocate to improve the University for its students. Reporters should reach out to Student Government on relevant issues rather than attacking the University on issues they have not researched or clarified.


Joe Slama

Chair of Health, Wellness, and Safety