Gates: Northwestern should extend health center hours

Gates: Northwestern should extend health center hours

Matt Gates, Columnist

Northwestern’s campus seems to run on absurd hours. University Library is open until 3 a.m. on normal school nights and 24/7 during exam weeks. Students have been known to overload with five classes, leaving them with the class hours of a high school student but much more reading. Extracurricular activities galore fill students’ nights, and internships might even come into the picture for upperclassmen.

But these hours are not shared by every service available at NU. Although a library that is open late is crucial to the student community, a health center with broader hours is critical as well. Increasing the hours of the Northwestern University Health Service would create a more accommodating and potentially even safer experience for the NU student body.

Extended hours at the Searle would make it easier for students to schedule medical appointments around their already hectic schedules. Its 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday hours — except Tuesday when hours are extended until 6 p.m. — make it difficult for students who are likely tied down by classes and work-study to easily schedule an appointment. Night hours would be less likely to conflict with classes, which would help students get to the doctor without falling behind in school.

Expanding the hours of Health Service would also make it easier to get an appointment, especially during midterm weeks such as this one, in which coughing interrupts your economics exam every five minutes. More hours mean more appointments and less time spent waiting with a tissue box and cough drops.

But there is a more pressing reason to have an on-campus health center open later, especially on weekend nights. We’ve all heard the stories about students that get “too drunk.” But “too drunk” means different things to different people. “Too drunk” can mean staggering home and falling asleep. Or “too drunk” can be life-threatening. This judgment is often left to the friends of an inebriated student simply because they are the only ones around. Obviously if students have any reason to suspect that a friend may be inebriated to the point of needing medical attention, they should take action. However, the fear of a friend going to the hospital may prevent students from taking action.

From having all entering students complete AlcoholEdu and participate in the Wildcat Voices, Alcohol Choices Essential NU to offering Red Watch Band Bystander Intervention Training, the NU administration takes many steps to educate the student body about alcohol and encourage students to make the right decision for a friend.

However, having Searle open on Friday and Saturday evenings when alcohol consumption is most likely to occur would be another great step toward keeping the NU community safe. Although the Health Service does provide urgent care to students on weekends and evenings, its website suggests that in the event of a “medical emergency, including those due to excessive alcohol consumption,” students should dial 911. Students in this situation would benefit from an intermediate option between having a friend sleep it off or go to the hospital.

Although increasing the hours at Searle would require the University to pay more employee wages, this seems like a good use of NU’s resources. Expanding the hours of Health Service would make it easier for students to schedule medical appointments without a long wait. It would also make it more likely that students will make a responsible decision when confronted with the situation of encountering an intoxicated peer. NU would be better served if the Health Service extended its hours to meet students’ needs.

Matt Gates is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].