SGA discusses mental health and sustainability

By TRISHA PARAYIL | October 26, 2017

The Student Government Association (SGA) discussed mental health on campus, sustainability initiatives and upcoming events at their weekly meeting on Tuesday.

Junior Class President Ash Panakam announced that the Health and Safety Committee will be holding the Stop the Stigma event in November.

The aim is to reduce the stigma of mental health on campus with programming activities like sticker distribution and small group discussions.

“It is really our responsibility as a University to really help with this issue,” Panakam said.

Panakam mentioned that the Milton S. Eisenhower (MSE) Library will soon be undergoing renovations, and there have been calls to create zen meditation spaces for students. She also suggested creating a counseling room in the library so students can talk to counselors.

SGA also welcomed Ashley Pennington, the program manager for the Office of Sustainability, who talked about her office’s objectives and vision for the upcoming school year. She stressed that student behavior has a large impact on making the campus sustainable and eco-friendly.

Pennington said that students can play their part in making the University greener by using the compost bins located in all the residence halls and across campus and  participating in the move out collection program.

They can also use the water bottle filling stations and sign up for free food alerts, a texting service that reduces food waste by notifying students about events with leftover food.

“At the end of the day, we are trying to make sustainability visible, tangible and experiential, and we are trying to do that through all the outreach activities and platforms that we have,” Pennington said.

Sophomore Class Senator Alex Walinskas affirmed the importance of the SGA being a strong proponent of sustainability efforts on campus.

“Class councils have to take the lead,” she said. “As the SGA, we should be an example to follow.”

She added that students organizing events, large or small, can help to reduce and divert waste by following the zero-waste model found on the Office of Sustainability website.

Orientation, commencement, move in, move out and the Spring Open House and Overnight Program (SOHOP) are all major events that have achieved zero-waste.

Junior Anthony Garay, the executive officer of TCO Labs, spoke about the entrepreneurship opportunities at Hopkins. He talked about Square One, a networking event; the distribution of entrepreneur guidebooks; and iCubed series, an innovation workshop.

“People can come and solve problems which later develop into projects, develop into start-ups,” he said. “This year’s theme is disabilities and different opportunities to innovate around disabilities.”

Garay also requested that SGA provide funding assistance with TCO Labs’ initiatives.

Following the presentation, senior Daphna Varadi and freshman Andrew Massoud talked about the upcoming Dance Marathon, which is a fundraising event for the kids at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the local branch of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Executive Vice President AJ Tsang and Sophomore Class Senator Dean Chien concluded the meeting by updating SGA on the current status of the recommendations released by the University’s Task Force on Mental Health and Wellbeing.

The Taskforce released draft recommendations in May that outline ways the University can address mental wellbeing.

They are in the process of reaching out to faculty to make sure that staff and professors are equipped to assist students. Tsang highlighted that the recommendations seek to address the culture at Hopkins and offer concrete solutions to tackling mental health for students.

“We recommended... fundamentally changing how our University and how each academic departments gives out grades, gives out exams,” he said.

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