Board of Trustees discuss mental health, Counseling Center staffing concerns

Connie Cabello, vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, presented her report at the meeting. (Caroline Gordon / THE GATEPOST)

By Evan Lee

News Editor

By Leighah Beausoleil

Asst. News Editor

Student Trustee Olivia Beverlie asked if progress has been made to help the overworked staff at the Counseling Center during the Board of Trustees meeting Jan. 29.

“I know we had touched on this last year, the Counseling Center, that whole issue of it being very overworked right now,” she said. “Has there been any progress made in that area in terms of the stress that is being put on them?”  

Trustee Hope Lozano Bielat pointed out a drastic increase in “crisis visits” compared to 2016.

Lorretta Holloway, vice president for enrollment and student development, responded, “I think it is as concerning as it sounds.”

She pointed out a mental health crisis on college campuses – “not just here but around the country” – that has affected both those who have crises as well as their families and friends.

Holloway said a new contractor will be hired for the Counseling Center, but said this will not completely resolve the issue.

Responding to concerns about the recent Coronavirus outbreak, Holloway said Ilene Hoffrenning, director of health services, reached out to the International Education Office for a list of students who studied abroad so that they could be provided with the information they need.

A group of FSU students and faculty that studied abroad in China over the winter break session had to wait a 14-day-incubation period, she said. None of them showed any signs of symptoms after the two weeks and all safely returned, she added.

Trustee Brian Herr introduced the potential for a “shift” in the University’s financial aid model to encourage greater student retention and offset statewide enrollment declines. 

The current financial aid model is based on need, according to Holloway. She said suggestions have been made to consider GPA and SAT scores in the model as well.

Holloway brought up data showing that students with high needs and lower GPAs, as well those with higher GPAs, are sufficiently funded by financial aid services. However, students with mid-range GPAs are not as well funded.

Several financial aid models were considered with this data in mind, Holloway said. 

“We looked at all the models to see what was feasible, particularly financially for us, and we decided to pick the model that we thought we could fund without having to take away money from current students,” she said.

The chosen model provides extra funding for mid-range GPA students with need, she added.

Holloway also highlighted findings from the enrollment data team suggesting that for every $1,000 a student receives in financial aid, their chance of staying at FSU increases by 10%.

By changing the current financial aid model, “we’re predicting that we may be able to get at least 40-45 more students,” she said. 

During her Student Trustee report, Beverlie discussed bookstore concerns brought up at SGA during its Jan. 28 meeting.

“A lot of students have had very negative experiences this semester, whether it was purchasing books or interacting with employees,” she said. 

Beverlie described one student’s experience. “She went to the bookstore, she brought the slip she needed, and the bookstore gave her the wrong book,” she said.

“When she went back to try to return it, they wouldn’t let her switch out the book unless she had a receipt even though it was their mistake,” Beverlie added.

Dale Hamel, executive vice president, said this was the first time he has heard of these problems with the bookstore and that he will look into them.

Beverlie also announced that SGA’s Administrators Forum will be held March 10 and a “Police Dialogue” will be held March 31.

Trustee Michael Grilli, chair of the Board’s finance committee, presented a land swap deal between the University and the Town of Ashland concerning the Warren Conference Center.

In return for “a little strip of land that the town wants,” this deal will pave another access road to the center and repaint its historic barn, he said.

“It’s not a big deal, there’s no real money to anticipate with the swap. But it will require that you all raise your hands and approve the action,” Grilli said. The Trustees voted in favor. 

Eric Gustafson, vice president of development and alumni relations, discussed the University’s fundraising efforts. 

He said the University has raised $832,000 for Fiscal Year 2020 as of Jan. 10.

Gustafson highlighted several scholarships, including a $25,000 pledge to set up a new endowed scholarship for first-year students, a $20,000 gift to provide scholarships for student veterans, and a $10,000 gift for English major scholarships.

President F. Javier Cevallos updated the Trustees about the new Chris Walsh Center for Educators and Families of the MetroWest, which opens Feb. 13.

The late Chris Walsh was a Massachusetts state representative for the 6th district, which includes Framingham. He passed away in 2018 from cancer.

The Chris Walsh Center will “provide information for families and educators about the continuum of educational support available to students with disabilities, students who are gifted, and students with unmet needs,” according to the FSU website.

Student-in-the-Spotlight Diana Katsikaris was introduced by Mary Grassetti, education department chair.

Katsikaris, a psychology major with a coordinate major in secondary education, said she transferred to FSU in fall 2017 as a second-semester sophomore.

She highlighted her role as president of Framingham State’s chapter of the International Literacy Association, her “remarkable” education field study, and her experience running the 2018 Boston Marathon with her FSU professors in the crowd cheering her on.

“Framingham State has shaped me into the scholar and educator that I am today,” Katsikaris said. “And I will always be appreciative of the time and dedication that the faculty and staff and administration offered me over the last few years.”