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A petition launched on change.org on May 1 by a Marist College student asking the institution to increase funding for the counseling center has been gaining support from the college community.

This petition, which was originally posted by senior Danielle Richardson, was the result of a group project involving Richardson and four other seniors — Stephen Mourges, Chloe Sibona, Ryan Lehrkinder, and Danielle Pease — who were enrolled in a social change class led by Professor Justin Myers. “Obviously, while researching the counseling center and talking to students, we got very emotional and maybe overly involved for a small project,” Richardson stated. This petition was the result. “So many people have contacted us personally or shared their inspirational stories in comments, so it was hard not to react and get this involved and start a petition,” she said. “Even though our project is finished, we are still promoting our ideas. It feels like an honor to represent Marist students in this way and give a voice to others who maybe do not feel comfortable speaking about mental illness yet.”

According to the petition, “a social change group at Marist College proposes an increase in funding for the counseling center. Through interviews and surveys with Marist students and faculty, our group discovered a desperate need for alterations in the counseling center.”

The counseling center, located in the Murray Student Center off of the Rotunda, is housed in the same office as Health Services. This petition, which will be delivered to Marist College, goes on to read, “Overall, Marist and the Health and Wellness Center do their best to support Marist students. However, through research, we believe an increase of funding would ease the workload of current counselors, spread awareness of the numerous and beneficial programs offered, and overall better the therapeutic experience for students.”

Richardson is very adamant that the counseling center is benefiting students with the resources they have available. “We were lucky enough to be able to talk to some of [the psychologists, social workers, and other trained professionals] and they are really one of Marist’s most hardworking and sincere departments,” she said. “They are really doing their best to cater to the influx of Marist students, but are unable to due to the lack of resources and funding. So we believe with more funding, they can alter and grow their department as they see fit.”

The petition, which initially began seeking 500 signatures, is a much needed one according to one student who utilizes the services offered by the counseling office at Marist. This student, who wishes to remain unnamed, was advised to see the psychiatrist by the counselor he or she was speaking to in the office, but later found out the psychiatrist was booked until the end of the semester.

“I feel that this service could have helped me this semester,” the student said.  

The same student feels that the counseling office does have a lot to offer, but wishes there were more counselors on call. “The group counseling is well thought-out. They need more money so they can hire someone else and free their schedules, though.”

Another Marist student that has also utilized the resources available at the counseling center agreed. “It’s hard to have to wait two to three weeks before you speak to anyone,” this student added.

Richardson hopes that the petition makes the school reconsider the funds they have allocated for such an important resource. “[Our hope by creating this petition was] to change Marist for the better.  We were really surprised [by] how many people commented, signed, or reached out to us personally about their own struggles and experiences. We hope by this petition to show [President] Yellen and other administrators how Marist students demand a change in the counseling center,” she said. Richardson adds that her group has also reached out to recently elected Student Government Association President Matt Marotti, as well as President Yellen.

Richardson said that she is “so surprised” by how much attention the petition has gained. “Overall, we are really happy. As seniors, we are trying to leave Marist a little better than when we came in,” said Richardson. “The Marist community is so strong, and issues like this just [reinforce] this.”

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