Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2020

SGA endorses interstate practice of mental-health counselors

By MICHELLE LIMPE | April 9, 2020

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SGA debated two letters written by students from several universities in response to COVID-19. 

The Student Government Association (SGA) debated whether to endorse two letters written by student representatives from several universities at its weekly meeting. The letters, written in response to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, address graduate school admissions policies and the interstate practices of mental-health-care providers. 

In the end, the senators voted to endorse the letter to the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) asking for the suspension of regulations that prohibit the interstate practice of mental-healthcare providers. Senators voted to table the letter to the Association of American Universities (AAU) asking for amendments to graduate school admission policies. 

Executive President Dean Chien introduced the letter to the FSMB and proposed that SGA endorse it. The letter requests that the FSMB recommend to state medical boards that they suspend restrictions on interstate practice for licensed practitioners. This would allow students to continue to see their regular providers from Hopkins even if they are in another state.

“[The FSMB] recognizes each state’s different licensing practices and would recommend each individual state to lift or standardize the licensing requirements so that it would allow our mental-health providers to provide tele-health providers to different states. The [Executive Board] is generally in support of easing licensing restrictions to help more students,” Chien said.

Some senators questioned whether the bill takes international students into account. Chien said he is unaware and will raise the concern to the board. 

Senior Class Senator Chase McAdams expressed his misgivings about signing off on the bill because it deals with politics and legislation which is beyond the scope of SGA. 

“I don’t think we’re educated enough about the nuances of the law to say yes and sign off on these restrictions. It doesn’t seem like something that we would have any real impact on,” McAdams said.  

Senior Class President Pavan Patel agreed that this issue was not a technically a SGA responsibility. However, he asserted that the nature of the pandemic warrants decisions that go beyond SGA’s typical responsibilities. 

“There are certain states, such as New York and Massachusetts, that are working on this issue, so it’s not necessarily something that would be mindblowingly crazy that we are signing off on,“ Pavan said. “I’m in support of us signing off on it because it’s something that states are already working on and would be a positive thing.”

Sophomore Class President Nathan Mudrak emphasized the importance of SGA signing off on the letter, stressing that the bill would impact the ability of college students to access mental-health services. 

“People are saying that our efforts would be better spent towards pushing for better mental-health resources at Hopkins. We have the mental-health resources, but they cannot be given to the students because of these state laws that are lagging behind the federal government,” Mudrak said. 

However, Mudrak found the letter’s request to expand the telemental health practitioner definition to be problematic. He suggested that SGA hold off on signing the letter, but should be advocating for nationwide health-care access. 

With a vote of 11 to 10, the motion for SGA to endorse the FSMB letter passed.  

Chien also introduced the letter to the AAU and proposed that SGA endorse it. The letter had been signed by 17 student body presidents from peer institutions as of April 8. 

The letter recommends that graduate schools alter how admissions will evaluate spring 2020 applicants in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chien said that he supported signing the letter because it mirrors concerns students had previously raised in light of the University’s new universal satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading system.

McAdams questioned whether there is a need to sign off on the letter, since graduate schools would already know about the situation. 

“I think this is already going to be done, so signing off on this letter would be signing off on something that’s already going to happen,” McAdams said. 

Other SGA members, including Senior Class Senator Kahmil Shajihan, agreed with McAdams’ sentiments. Shajihan specified that he did not support two points in the letter, which requested graduate programs lighten or remove GPA cutoffs and also asked these schools to lower thresholds for standardized test scores. 

“I don’t think a lot of this is groundbreaking or something that a graduate committee won’t already be thinking,“ he said.

Sophomore Class Senator Katie Li expressed her support for the letter, stating that it would be beneficial for SGA to express its support to ensure that all universities would take these issues into account. 

Li suggested that SGA discuss how grading policies should be made more equitable, noting that the pandemic is going to affect everyone in different ways. 

Shajihan voiced his concern that certain other prestigious universities have not signed the letter. He explained that this indicated to him that requesting lower expectations from graduate school admissions committees may adversely affect applicants.

“It’s delegitimizing. We should be careful of an attitude — just because an overall sentiment is good doesn’t mean we should sign it,” said Shajihan. 

Chien clarified that the letter’s language, meant to be the final draft, was only finalized the previous evening, which may be why several institutions have not had the chance to sign it yet. Chien also stated that he has taken the concerns into account and will raise them to the drafters of the letter. 

SGA voted to table this letter until further revisions had been made. 

SGA additionally announced updates on the Student Forum, scheduled to be on April 21 at 4 p.m. EST via Zoom. The Student Forum aims to promote interaction with SGA representatives, who can relay the concerns of the student body to administration.

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