Wellness center seeks new space

Thin walls cause privacy concerns for visitors and employees discussing personal health issues

Abigail Duchow, Staff Reporter

“Students have no confidential space to discuss intimate partner violence, recovery, and mental health,” was the beginning to a resolution regarding the Wellness Center. The Wellness Center was a topic brought up in the ASCWU meeting that took place on Jan. 27.

At the meeting, ASCWU President Jasmin Washington described that the walls in the Wellness Center do not reach all the way up to the ceiling and are thin. She said that this allows other people in the room to hear conversations between students and Wellness Center staff. This can cause privacy concerns for students and even for staff. One staff member is currently using a cubicle as their office, which doesn’t allow for much privacy. 

Téa Green

The Wellness Center uses white noise machines to help with this problem by producing subtle sounds like that of wind or water. While the machines can help, they don’t mask the conversations very well. 

Marissa Howat is the director of the Wellness Center. In a previous Observer interview, she discussed the current conditions of the Wellness Center. 

“Our office conducts confidential meetings with students (survivors of sexual violence and/or alcohol, cannabis or other substance use disorders or violations) and our current space does not afford the discretion/privacy that best supports those students,” Howat said in an email. “We have also seen an increase in the number of students who want to meet with professional staff for a wellness ‘check-in’ and we’d like to grow to meet that need.”

Shawnté Elbert is the Associate Dean for Health and Wellness. She said her supervisor, Gregg Heinselman, has been meeting with facilities for the last couple weeks to discuss a new space for the Wellness Center. She emphasized that the discussion for a new space for the Wellness Center is a very active conversation. 

“Right now we’re trying to find space to get [students at the Wellness Center] in so that they can have confidential conversations,” Elbert said.

Elbert said the room the Wellness Center is currently in, SURC 139, would be better for basic health education and promotion, getting condoms or receiving health and wellness coaching.

The current location is also in a high traffic area, which can make students feel awkward if they’re in crisis or crying. Walking through such a crowded place can be hard for a student wanting to access the Wellness Center while in an upset state. 

“It’s prime real estate, but at the same time it’s not the best location,” Elbert said.

Elbert said the immediate goal was to find a better space in which students can meet with wellness advocates in confidence. The long term goal is to figure out how to integrate all of health and wellness together. 

One of the goals is having all branches of health and wellness in the same area so students can easily access all parts of the wellness program. Elbert described this as a “warm hand-off,” in which a student is referred to a different part of the wellness program. Having all branches of the health and wellness program in buildings that are close to each other, or even in the same building, would make this process easier, according to Elbert.