Where I once felt rattled and helpless beneath the weight of the University System, I have now learned courage and faith from the activism and example of my fellow peers.
I am the student featured in Maine Campus article “Students Fighting for improved mental health care on campus” published recently this April.
Since then, President Ferrini Mundy has sanctioned a student-led group to open a democratic channel to the administration on UMaine’s Mental Healthcare — a proud first step.
Empowerment on this front exists only because of students’ unprecedented actions to make change. To name a few of these students: Takquan Parks, Harrison Ransley and Finn Bradenday. These individuals demonstrated courage by paving the way for leaders to emerge under the cause (members of the newly forming mental health committee — you know who you are).
I want to take a word to reflect on this development and also the recently published “rebuttal” given by Douglas Johnson, the counseling center’s director. After all, I feel that he and I must want the same things.
Numbers are important, but not completely telling on their own. Numbers can only belie questions. Questions are directed and necessarily limited in their scope. In this way, questions do not reveal a complete picture, even when answered correctly. The suicide rate on campus may have seen a rare spike for enrolled students this year — but shouldn’t that number also historically account for those students who were un-enrolled and then completed suicide? Also, the Counseling Center may staff some hours for singly employed “Triage Service,” but what percentage of intake does that one counselor actually perform by phone?
And I just want to say, before going any further, that I get it. It’s all very common to acknowledge that things could always be “better.” “There are only so many resources,” as they say.
But these rationalizations are meager, and far from end-all. It is a poor trade to exchange collective justice for the paltriness of excuse. Let us not forget that the question of “Who gets what” is never answered by science or fate, but always by sheer political will. You will find that portions on the decision-making table are always divvied away from you until you are present to represent yourself.
More than anything else, courage is the virtue so desperately needed now among us. We may know that we are smart enough to solve problems, and we may even know — when we are truly honest with ourselves — that solving problems is within our collective power. But the call that begs us to action is not met by smartness or unrealized potential, but by the individual courage, we summon within ourselves to make our vision real in this world.
I have seen a lot of this courage at UMaine, and that is the impression I will leave here with.