Reform CAPS asks for feedback to prepare for meeting with CAPS, Student Affairs


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Reform CAPS decorated The Rock with flyers. Students attended a Reform CAPS forum last Friday to discuss their experiences with CAPS.

Caroline Brew, Reporter

Reform CAPS at Northwestern hosted a forum Friday to gather input from students about their experiences with Counseling and Psychological Services. 

Leaders of Reform CAPS, a student organization aimed at encouraging the University to improve its mental health services, will meet Monday with CAPS and Student Affairs. They heard from two student attendees about issues with CAPS, including its short-term care model, lack of available appointments and failure to serve students with marginalized identities. 

The leaders spent a large portion of the meeting going through the CAPS website. They referenced the CAPS provider referral list — a resource for students to connect with therapists outside of NU — to highlight the service’s negligence of students with marginalized identities. The referral list allows students to filter by categories like gender, racial identity, religion and sexual orientation, but the forum leaders pointed out how the representation within these categories is limited. 

“Basically, if you check any more than two specifications, you get less than five options,” Reform CAPS leader and SESP sophomore Genni Bogdanowicz said.

The referral database is 70% White, which Bogdanowicz said means CAPS cannot adequately serve all NU students.

The leaders also went through the CAPS website’s FAQ section and discussed their thoughts on the system’s lack of transparency, clarity and consistency throughout the site. 

Students expressed they felt some of the language in the FAQ section implies students are responsible for anticipating their mental health state. One answer states that “the earlier in the year that you schedule with CAPS, the less likely it is that you will have to wait to see a therapist.”

“The language is very ‘You do this, you have to take the initiative,’” Communication junior Catherine Z., another Reform CAPS leader, said.

Reform CAPS launched its Instagram account in May. The account posts student submissions about their experiences with CAPS and calls for change within the system. According to Catherine Z., CAPS reached out to the group’s leaders at the beginning of this academic year asking to meet.

During Monday’s meeting, Reform CAPS leaders plan to discuss concerns outlined in their demand statement, and read student experiences from the Instagram account, emphasizing how CAPS has failed its students — especially those with marginalized identities. 

“I want (CAPS and Student Affairs) to acknowledge those experiences and validate them because they are often ignored,” Reform CAPS leader and Communication junior Sahibzada Mayed said. “I want them to understand that CAPS is very much part of Northwestern, and the institution is rooted in White supremacy culture.”

The leaders said CAPS reaching out is a “good faith gesture.” But Mayed said the group also wants to ensure CAPS and Student Affairs are willing to work toward real progress rather than treat the meeting as a way to alleviate a public relations issue. 

Reform CAPS plans to publish a pamphlet summarizing the issues addressed in the meeting and the administration’s response to them, its leaders said. 

“If they see us as equal partners working together to try to fix this larger issue, we will be more than happy to establish a working relationship with them,” Mayed said. 

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