Tuesday, December 10

Jasmine Aquino: UCLA Residential Life should implement student wellness position

(Jesse Wang/Daily Bruin)

(Jesse Wang/Daily Bruin)

Tall and bright on the front entrance of the Wooden Center stands a flag that reads: UCLA is a healthy campus.

While the UCLA campus also includes the Hill, it doesn’t feel that way when it comes to student health. There seems to be a fixation on campus services as opposed to treating the thousands that live in residential housing.

Residents who find themselves in need of these resources on the Hill often cannot find them without first having to talk to their resident assistant. The resources that UCLA Housing does offer in the form of passive boards and programs are not as engaging or large as they could be.

And when residents finally find these resources at the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center or UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, it may take weeks for them to finally speak to a professional.

UCLA Residential Life needs to work more proactively when its residents move in and start working on preventative and educational measures. Residential Life should implement a new Housing Government Representative position specifically centered on student wellness efforts, much like the work of the Student Health Advocates in the mid-1900s at UCLA.

HGRs are either elected or appointed for the academic year by Residential Life professional staff and are expected to fulfill duties laid out for them in their residence hall constitution. One of these duties includes executing programs that relate to their role on the Residential Life team, such as the Team Green Coordinator in every hall who works towards increasing sustainability efforts on the Hill. Right now, there is no housing government position that focuses on issues surrounding student wellness like stress management, mental health and sexual education.

The student health and wellness HGRs could emulate the the student health advocates on campus. The Student Health Advocates program, or SHA, is an on-campus resource under the umbrella organization of the Student Wellness Commission, or SWC. The program encourages students to develop healthy lifestyles and educates students on well-being on campus, but is limited on the Hill.

SHA began its student wellness efforts on the Hill before moving to a campus office in 1974. During this time, the Hill Top Shop and the Internet did not exist. SHA students were equipped with a few over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and information brochures about relative student health issues.

Residential Life today has a slew of resources, from program management to social media teams, and forming a student wellness position would provide residents today with the support that SHA did in the previous century.

Allyza Afable, a third-year nursing student and the current co-director of SHA, told me that several SHA members live on the Hill now, but do not have the proper connections with Residential Life to expand their work on the Hill from simple floor programs that are only planned if the floor resident assistant reaches out to SHA. This stalls the outreach SHA would provide to residents.

Residential assistants currently play the role of student health advocate on the Hill on a smaller scale. In the event they have to respond to a scenario, they are trained to do so in one of two ways: confront the resident directly or refer the resident to an on- or off-campus resource.

The default for seeking help is always CAPS, which recently reduced the number of appointments available to students with the University of California Student Health Insurance Plan from 10 visits to six. This housing government position would provide residents more immediate and engaging resources that focus on prevention measures rather than waiting for residents to get to that point.

Rena Orenstein, the director of student health education and health promotion at the Ashe Center who began her work with SHA when it was on the Hill, said that Residential Life’s movement to create a student wellness position for every residential hall would be valuable. She said students should have as much support as possible for them to succeed.

HGRs receive quarterly stipends of up to $250, and every residential hall currently has at least nine members. While adding such a position could cost a substantial amount, money should not be an obstacle towards working to create a healthier community. The current Residential Life funds are more substantial than those of other parts of UCLA, and Residential Life could try to accommodate a new position.

And while student health campus efforts from USAC, SWC and other similar organizations already provide resources, adding this position on the Hill would make these efforts far greater and more visible.

The quarter system is very fast-paced and often times students forget about themselves until issues of mental health demand attention. Programs geared toward informing residents about healthy eating, meditation and self-care tips should continue to be developed and implemented so that UCLA can raise healthy campus flags on the Hill, too.

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Jasmine Aquino was an assistant Opinion editor in the 2016-2017 year. Previously, she was an Opinion and News contributor.

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