By Jack Wellman
To the student body,
In response to last week’s article, “Reckless spending is silencing,” I would like to take the opportunity to address the article’s critique of the recent Bishop recommendation and the role students had in that recommendation.
First, contrary to what the author suggests, arriving at this recommendation was student driven. Yes, the decision was made by the administration, but it was student input that shaped the outcome. Students were heard through public forums, a petition, social media, feedback forms and at weekly ASWU meetings. Students consistently showed up and made their priorities known. I am certain that physical health services would not be returning to Bishop had students not made their voices heard. That is something all students should be proud of.
Second, the decision to restore physical health services and add an additional mental health counselor is a clear and important win for students. Not only does this decision make progress towards matching mental health services to the needs of students, it means affordable, accessible and private physical health care for all students, irrespective of insurance plan or immigration status. At Bishop, students can access care more affordably and more conveniently than in the Salem community. The cost to students without Bishop far outweighs the cost of an increase to the wellness fee.
The wellness fee increase is also a realistic solution in light of Willamette’s current budget situation. With budget cuts in the millions of dollars last year, and more to come this year, there are simply no easy solutions. The wellness fee is low compared to other schools, factored into students’ financial aid calculations. It ensures that Bishop will be protected from budget cuts in the future, adds a much needed mental health counselor and restores physical health services. Whether or not you agree with the fee increase, I encourage you to engage with upcoming community-wide budget discussions as Willamette gets closer to passing next year’s budget in May. Show up, listen, ask questions and advocate.