Chants of “Do better, be better, SCU” rang above the dotted fountain in front of Mission Church at Santa Clara University on Thursday afternoon.
Students gathered between classes to demand policy change by university officials at the school’s mental health services after three students died this quarter — two of whom died by suicide.
Megan Wu, a junior student and one of the rally organizers, said she was frustrated by the lack of accessible and equitable mental health services on campus.
“We shouldn’t cause students to die in order to improve mental health resources,” she said. “I think we are all united behind this shared feeling with really frustration with our university’s inaction.”
Wu and other student organizers are asking administrators to hire more BIPOC and LGBTQ counselors, extend crisis services hours and invest more in the university’s wellness center.
A source familiar with the situation confirmed that after the march, the chairman of the university’s board of trustees allocated several million dollars to mental health resources.
After a recent death over the weekend, the vice chancellor’s office sent out an email about academic leniency, noting that the university will allow undergraduates to choose the option to pass or not pass in the fall semester. The email also included information about mental health resources on campus.
In a statement, university spokeswoman Deepa Arora said counseling and psychological services are offering a 24/7 support line to students in light of the recent death.
“On Sunday night, crisis support staff were available at the Benson Memorial Student Center,” she added. “This week, we have on-site support for students in two residence halls. SCU has also partnered with KARA Student Grief Services.”
After the board’s critical commitment on Thursday afternoon, Wu said she believed the decision was due to student pressure.
“I don’t see it coming from a place of empathy, but as a way to please the general student body because they understand that we are frustrated with them,” she said.
Tatiana Fultz, a social worker and former case manager at the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services Program, said the school’s mental health services had been inadequate for years. Although she left university four years ago, she took part in a rally Thursday in support of students she says have struggled under the administration.
“I think the very culture of Santa Clara needs to change,” she said. “They need to listen to students and not see them as a hindrance to their management, but as a resource that needs to be listened to.”
It’s “absolutely clear that the university hasn’t done enough,” said Saunders-Smithwick, a senior student at the university. She’s a campus EMT and says that while they handle a host of calls, many of them are related to mental health.
“I would like to see more infrastructure to create a health and wellness building on campus,” she said. “We have a clinic. It is very small, but I think there should be a bigger building and offsite therapists coming in to get more appointments.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing feelings of depression or suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free, around-the-clock support, information and resources to help. Reach out to Lifeline at 800-273-8255. You can also text the homepage to the crisis text line at 741741.