Faced with increased demand for resources in virtually all aspects of campus, the administration worked to address growing concerns in Georgetown’s academic, athletic and student life.
Academic Resource Center
With five academic coordinators responsible for the entire student population, the Academic Resource Center faced criticism for its tight quarters and inadequate resources in an external review submitted to the university in January.
The 14-page report, which was obtained by The Hoya in April and eventually leaked in full by disability rights activist Lydia Brown (COL ’15) on her blog, was conducted in October by Sheilah Shaw Horton, vice president for student development at Loyola University of Maryland, and Myrna Cohen, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Weingarten Learning Resources Center.
Among the 15 recommendations included in the report, Cohen and Horton recommended moving the ARC office to a larger space and hiring two more full-time learning coordinators, noting the ARC’s “wheelchair inaccessible” location on the third floor of the Leavey Center, its “claustrophobic” testing room two floors above and its undersized staff.
Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, who requested the external review, said the conversations regarding hiring an additional full-time learning strategies coordinator and moving the ARC to a more spacious location are ongoing, but nothing has been finalized.
Both Olson and ARC Director Jane Holahan said the ARC is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The report cited an anonymous administrator who said, “At a university that prides itself on excellence, we are just meeting compliance.”
The ARC, which is housed under the Office of Student Affairs, is staffed by five full-time professionals on the main campus tasked with providing tutoring services, academic assistance and disability accommodations for the student body, which includes 750 students with registered disabilities and more than 800 varsity athletes.
Holahan and Associate Director Annie Tulkin coordinate academic support for all nonathletes, while Associate Director Shelly Habel serves as academic coordinator for all varsity student-athletes with the exception of the varsity basketball teams, which have their own coordinators. The men’s basketball team’s coordinator is housed under athletics, while the women’s basketball team coordinator is housed under the ARC.
The report pointed to the imbalance of the student-to-coordinator ratio as possibly contributing to a lack of attention for nonathletes without registered disabilities.
Unlike the varsity basketball coordinators who travel with their teams, Habel said she manages too many student-athletes to administer exams tha conflict with athletes’ schedules, except for finals. Monitoring 200 to 300 student-athlete schedules with priority during pre-registration, she said, forces her to devote her time to students who are already academically at risk.
“We have tried to rationalize the work in a way where I am doing more triage than I am day-to-day operations, which is unfortunate because it’s like an emergency room,” Habel said in an interview with The Hoya. “As opposed to proactive, it tends to be a little more reactive.”
With multimillion-dollar donations allocated for the construction of the John Thompson Jr. Athletic Center for varsity athletes and renovations of Cooper Field, Kehoe Field — used primarily by club and intramural teams — has fallen into disarray.
Located on the roof of Yates Field House, Kehoe Field was closed to all athletes Feb. 2 due to safety concerns. The field has been closed since 2007 to varsity practices.
At a Hoya Roundtable discussion held the day after the closure, Vice President for Facilities and Planning Robin Morey said the concrete roof beneath Kehoe’s turf was deteriorating. Additionally, the roof’s poor elevation angle prevents proper water drainage, causing further damage to the roof. As a result, the turf is riddled with divots, bumps and rippled surfaces.
Under current master-planning negotiations, Yates would be torn down and a new athletics center would be built where Shaw Field currently is, creating space for new fields. The development would cost approximately $75 million.
Morey said at the roundtable that the university will decide within 12 months whether it will repair Kehoe Field while waiting for the creation of the new athletics center.
The university is still considering its options for renovation. A $10 million renovation would take a year to cpmplete and last for 10 years, but a $30 million renovation would take 18 months to complete and last for 30 years.
Facing a potential 8 to 15 year closure under the campus plan, student athletes created a petition in March, urging the administration to speed up the rehabilitation process. The Advisory Board for Club Sports played a role in putting together the petition.
In an article in The Hoya (“Student Athletes Form Petition Protesting Kehoe Field Closure,” March 22, A5), Director of Yates Field House Jim Gilroy voiced his support for the petition.
“I would like to think that if several thousand students made it clear that this is really important to them that maybe somebody in the administration will listen,” Gilroy said.
Counseling and Psychiatric Services
Counseling and Psychiatric Services has long faced backlash from students for its inadequate resources, the high cost of counseling services and limited hours of operation. Continued student advocacy this year paved the way for CAPS and the Georgetown University Student Association Mental Health Committee to increase CAPS staff, provide free services and new programs to improve resources.
The fall semester saw the addition of two new CAPS staff members and the implementation of a Mental Health Advisory Board, which consists of students and administrators.
On April 24, GUSA launched Project Lighthouse, an anonymous peer-to-peer online chat service to enable anonymous communication, which received 25 student messages on its first day of operations. The initiative included more than 40 hours of training for peer volunteers with the support of CAPS and Health Education Services.
The new service is open 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily and is intended to connect students with peer-supporters to discuss issues ranging from stress and sleep problems to thoughts of self-harm.
Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson lauded the efforts to strengthen the university’s mental health services in conjunction with efforts by student associations.
“I am very encouraged by the partnerships this year between administrators and students to strengthen our campus Safety Net. Adding new staff members in CAPS, convening the Mental Health Advisory Board, and the launch of Project Lighthouse have all been very positive steps,” Olson wrote in an email to The Hoya.
CAPS Director Philip Meilman said the expansion of CAPS services is due in part to the growing need for increased mental health resources on campus.
“This has been a very active year for CAPS. Over the past decade we have seen more and more students for direct clinical services and a growing number of psychiatric hospitalizations for serious difficulties,” Meilman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As we work to take care of students, we have engaged in a number of other significant initiatives.”
According to Meilman, CAPS is planning on further increasing its staff over the course of the next few years and revisiting its medical leave procedures, an effort already in the works.
“Working with GUSA and other student leaders, we have conducted an extensive study of the medical leave process by bringing in an outside consultant who interviewed students, deans, CAPS staff, and others,” Meilman wrote. “We are working on a three-year plan to grow the size of the CAPS staff and are looking at options for additional space to accommodate an expanded staff.”