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February 19, 2020

Wellness Center Timeline Accelerated, University Still Faces Demands From Activists

Construction on the roof of the new Health and Wellness Center. The Center was designed with the intention of allowing in natural light.

Construction on the roof of the new Health and Wellness Center. The Center was designed with the intention of allowing in natural light.

Courtesy of Student Health and Counseling Services

Despite ongoing demands from student activists, the University’s new Health and Wellness Center is now projected to open in full by autumn 2020, rather than in winter 2021 as initially announced.

According to University spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan, the Student Health Service (SHS) will relocate over spring break and open at the new facility at the beginning of spring quarter. Student Counseling and Health Promotion Services are scheduled to begin operating out of the center by autumn quarter 2020.

The wellness center, which will be located at the corner of 59th Street and Maryland Avenue, will jointly house SHS, the Student Counseling Service (SCS), and Health Promotion and Wellness in one location. These services are all currently located in different facilities.

The wellness center’s construction has faced pressure from the student activist group Fair Budget UChicago (FBU), which hosted a forum on the center last month. Among the group’s demands are reduced wait times for counseling services, increased student oversight over the new center, and expanded identity-based support groups.

Representatives from FBU wrote in a statement to The Maroon that the group’s demands remain, regardless of the accelerated timeline.

“FBU appreciates that administrators see the urgency of improving wellness services and increasing staff,” representatives wrote. “However, we are still waiting for public communication regarding qualitative and specific quantitative changes we can expect with the opening of the new center.”

McSwiggan wrote in a comment to The Maroon, “Since 2015, Student Counseling Service (SCS) has increased the number of clinical providers by 49%. The new Wellness Center will enable us to continue this trend by supporting increased flexibility in programming and staffing – both in type and quantity – with the goal of increasing access to care for students. Additionally, we have instituted online scheduling for Student Health Service and are looking to do the same for SCS.”

Administrators also say that centralizing these offerings under one roof will streamline the check-in process and allow students to be referred between SHS and SCS more easily. Assistant Vice President for Student Services Mario Polizzi said at a Student Government meeting that housing SCS along with other wellness services will reduce the stigma surrounding mental health resources and discourse on campus.

The University also envisions the wellness center as a meeting place for wellness activities, including workspaces for students.

More details about the center’s construction can be found on the University’s Wellness Center Updates website page.

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