Community Dialogue focuses on mental health, course affordability


Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer

Students, faculty and administrators talk closely about campus-related issues over dinner and cookies at Foster Walker Complex. Conversations focused on improving mental health support and course affordability.

Yunkyo Kim, Reporter

Students had an opportunity to enjoy dinner, cookies and small-scale conversations with President Morton Schapiro and Provost Jonathan Holloway about mental health support and course affordability at this quarter’s Community Dialogue.

The event, which was created in early 2016 as a response to student demands for open communication with administration, aims to facilitate conversations across the Northwestern community.

Community Dialogue is now co-sponsored by Associated Student Government, Multicultural Student Affairs and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, which encouraged intimate, structured discussions of “academic, administrative, social and financial stressors relevant to students,” according to an event brochure.

“This is an opportunity for us to do a lot of things but it’s also an opportunity to get to know each other as people,” Interim Vice President Julie Payne-Kirchmeier said. “These community dialogues do make a difference.”

Discussions and feedback from community dialogue events have led to changes influencing student life, including the Undergraduate Student Lifecycle Committee, InclusionNU Fund and funding for Books for Cats, Payne-Kirchmeier said.

Weinberg sophomore Revika Singh, ASG’s vice president for health and wellness, said that it was necessary for mental health services to be more comprehensive for students.

“(Counseling and Psychological Services) and Health Services shouldn’t be so isolated from each other,” Singh said.

Students also expressed frequent issues about student finances. ASG president and event facilitator Izzy Dobbel said students brought up concerns they could not receive their Student Emergency and Essential Needs Fund due to frequent errors in processing older documentation. They also struggled with issues of course affordability for language-specific programs.

In addition to the conversations, ASG representatives from each small group will compile a summary of discussed issues, which Soteria Reid, ASG’s executive officer of justice and inclusion, said will be helpful for the student population moving forward.

“I’m hoping that in the future, we would get a lot of feedback about how to improve and become very proactive in implementing those changes,” the SESP junior said.

Dobbel said she was satisfied with the conversations she observed at the event.

While problems prevail on campus, she said she was glad that events such as the Community Dialogue brought together students and administrators to have honest conversations about how to improve the campus.

“It’s a way to finally have direct communication and not have to face a lot of bureaucracy,” the SESP senior said. “It’s true one-on-one, face-to-face conversations and building really valuable relationships.”

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