SG urges importance of mental health

UT Student Government members, in coordination with the University, are encouraging students to prioritize their health and safety despite concerns about exams and classes following the on-campus
stabbing Monday.

SG addressed students with a Facebook post Tuesday morning that provided Google documents outlining a process for requesting excused absences from professors, as well as a suggested email template to use when contacting them.

“The tragedy on our campus has shaken so many of us,” SG said in a statement included in the post. “At a time when we are mourning, many students are facing a challenging schedule this week. … You should not have to choose between your safety and your academic standing.”

The documents encourage students to explain their personal situations to professors and ask for support during an emotionally draining time. Students are also encouraged to tell professors they will make up missed assignments and return to class as soon as possible.  

Eric Saldanha, SG internal financial director, said SG was compelled to post the documents online after hearing from students who were dealing with academic issues while still coping with the loss of a
fellow student.

“We definitely felt like we needed to communicate about some of the resources they have at their disposal,” said Saldanha, a business honors and government senior. “We all felt like if they were uncomfortable going to class, we wanted to prioritize their mental health and safety.”

University policy does not require faculty and staff to honor these requests for excused absences. However, Soncia Reagins-Lilly, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said the Provost Office has asked faculty members to be flexible and understanding of student needs.

“We ask students to work with their faculty and their advisors if they are in need of accommodations,” Reagins-Lilly said in an email.

Following Monday’s incidents, Saldanha said academic advisers have sent student concerns directly to deans of individual colleges. According to University procedures, academic problems are usually addressed by the course instructor and department chair before being sent to the dean.

“Rather than having to kind of go through the bureaucracy that is typical in a situation like this, we really tried to work with the Provost’s office to streamline the process,” Saldanha said.

SG leaders met Tuesday morning with the Provost and Dean of Students Offices to further provide academic support to students. Reagins-Lilly sent an email to students Tuesday afternoon extending the pass/fail deadline for a class to May 5. According to the spring 2017 academic calendar, the previous date for this was April 3.

“We really pushed them to take more action and we’re really glad they did in that message to students today,” Saldanha said. “(The extension is) the kind of action that will give students the environment that they need to navigate the academic situation that some of them may be in right now.”