ASUC Senate seeks to promote student wellness by establishing workgroup

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Taking a step forward in promoting student wellness, the ASUC Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday night to establish a new student-led wellness initiative and workgroup.

Authored by CalSERVE senator Justin Kong, SQUELCH! senator Emily Truax and Matt Grigorieff and Janell Tryon from the Graduate Assembly, the bill seeks to create a long-term student vision for wellness, both psychological and physical, through a workgroup that would also determine preventative services for students to mitigate health care costs in the short term.

The workgroup will be composed of two to three ASUC senators and four delegates from the Graduate Assembly, in addition to faculty from different departments and students of underrepresented communities. Together, the members will seek to cultivate a collective vision of student wellness and determine how this vision could be actualized on campus.

Specifically, once the workgroup is formed, the members will conduct surveys, investigate possible wellness programs and ultimately create a report that will communicate the various student perspectives on health and advocate their needs for services. The report will be presented to the ASUC and the Graduate Assembly in fall 2014.

“We don’t have a centralized definition of wellness,” Truax said. “It has to be defined by students.”

The co-authors of Wednesday night’s bill are creating this workgroup to continue a conversation about student wellness that began last year. Former ASUC President Connor Landgraf placed a Health and Wellness referendum on the ASUC ballot, which was later nullified when it had been determined that it was placed on the ballot unconstitutionally. This new initiative, however, is independent of last spring’s referendum.

UC Berkeley has a myriad of student groups and committees that are dedicated to wellness, mental health and financing for health services. These groups, however, hardly talk among themselves and coordinate their actions, Grigorieff said. The bill’s workgroup would bring together all these different voices.

“There’s a complete disconnect with what the student vision is, in large part because no one is talking to anybody,” Grigorieff said.

The bill also welcomes underserved minority groups into the conversation about student wellness. Truax explained that in the past, the needs of students of color, LGBTQ students, international students, disabled students and other minority groups were not factored into the equation.

Input from underserved students can help shape future programs like Golf With Marty and Goalball, which have both been successful in encouraging disabled students to engage in physical activity and strive for fitness, said Desiree Robedeaux, external co-president of the Disabled Students’ Union.

Claudia Covello, the executive director of University Health Services, said she supports the workgroup because everyone has a different definition of wellness, and this would allow discussions to happen from different perspectives.

“Change is gonna have to happen,” Grigorieff said. “We need to have this vision in place before any institutional changes come; that way we can interject a student vision of what those changes will be.”

Contact Bo Kovitz at [email protected].