By NAADIRA AALIM-JOHNSON
My first semester at UMW was not an easy one. I was going through the typical college struggles most students go through, such as adjusting to the school’s curriculum, being away from the familiarity of my home, and dealing with a roommate. But to make matters more difficult, I had transferred in during the spring semester, a time in which people had already established their social groups, and I found it hard to find my place with one- and I still do.
It’s safe to say I spent a lot of time at the Talley Center, and while they were as helpful and kind as possible, in talking to people who also went there, we agree there were a few areas for improvement.
Danielle, a student who asked to only be referred to by her first name, had a similar familiarity with the counseling center to mine. She said she didn’t particularly have a problem with the center’s 9am-5pm hours but wished that “instead of linking students to [a] suicide hotline, which is not always reliable, they should have a 24 hour hotline agreement with another place.”
She went on to say that while she had no issue with the appointment plan they have set up, she wished they allowed more walk in appointments as “there were times I needed a person then and now and they wouldn’t [have someone available]. That doesn’t help the needs of someone who needs help at that very moment.”
I then spoke to senior student Amani Abbas and junior student Rahima, a student who asked to only be referred to by her first name. While they both admitted that neither had really used the counseling center themselves, they were acquainted and close with people who had, thus having heard some of the grievances of their friend’s experiences.
Amani, similar to Danielle, agreed that the appointment policy in place should be modified so there could be more opportunities for walk-ins. When it came to the counseling centers strict 9am-5pm hours causing conflicting with students school schedules they both seemed to agree. Amani stating that while her friend “managed to make it work” she [her friend] “sometimes did feel like she was dragging it out because she had booked an appointment and felt obligated to go, instead of going for the simple purpose of going for her own sake.”
On the other hand, Rahima stated that the hours had caused problems for her friend.“She was seeking assistance from counseling regarding her class load for the semester in which, she was unable to reach [the counseling center] by phone and email, and had class from 8:00am-3:00pm. It was hard for her to get appointments.”
I asked both girls if they ultimately thought the counseling center should have longer hours than the regular 9-5. ”If anything I think it should be 24/7, because people’s mental illnesses are 24/7 and anything can happen at any moment,” said Abbas.
Rahima on the other hand, though agreeing there should be changes, offered an alternative means rather than longer hours. “Instead of having longer hours, they should have an on call number and an online chat server,” said Rahima. “I understand that it is hard to staff in various departments so keeping the office open beyond 5pm is not always feasible.”
In summary, many people thought that there needed to be access to counseling services outside of the office time, either through extended hours or through a special hotline.
The Talley Center is currently open to scheduling appointments 8am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.