Wellness fee to increase Tang Center services, support sex assault prevention

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Students returning to campus this fall will be among the first to pay the $146 semesterly wellness fee and reap its professed benefits — some immediate, others yet to be confirmed.

The fee includes a reduced-cost membership at the campus’s Recreational Sports Facility and helps generate revenue to expand the Tang Center’s services. It will additionally support services for sexual violence prevention and support, and programs tailored toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals as well as toward veterans and disabled students.

A $92 fee will replace the Recreational Sports Department and Intramural Sports fees, which were separate fees in previous years, and the remaining $54 will go toward a variety of wellness projects overseen by the newly formed, student-led Wellness Initiative Fee Advisory Committee.

University Health Services professionals at the Tang Center plan to be available for consultation seven days a week. Additionally, they aim to offer counseling services from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. from Monday to Thursday.

The Tang Center itself, normally open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., will expand its hours over the course of the semester and remain open until 7 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays. Urgent Care facilities will eventually be available Sundays as well.

Proposed by last year’s ASUC Senate and authored by former SQUELCH! senator Madison Gordon, the Wellness Fee Referendum was one of five measures on last year’s ballot and one of two fee-based referendums approved by the student body.

The referendum itself marked the culmination of the efforts of a variety of student groups and representatives, including the Graduate Assembly and the ASUC. More than 10 former ASUC senators and multiple members of the campus’s Mental Health Coalition sponsored the bill.

While the committee is yet to meet and decide on how to use most of the forthcoming funds, certain benefits will become immediately available to new and returning students.

But campus advocates have concerns that the improvements, while beneficial in the short term, may not be wholly adequate in providing long-term solutions to students.

“UHS does not have the space, staff, and other resources to provide long term counseling to qualifying students,” Gordon said in an email, adding that while this may be the best solution given current resource constraints, it is critical for UHS to provide such services on site.

Similarly, Meghna Grover, former co-chair of the Mental Health Coalition and a co-sponsor of the wellness referendum bill, stressed the needs to inculcate a more supportive culture for mental health issues among students and professors on campus, and to continue making improvements to accommodations.

Nevertheless, both Grover and Gordon are encouraged by the progress that has been made, and their sentiments are shared by members of the student body.

“It’s great to be at Berkeley, but I am worried about opportunities I will have to ensure my own wellness in a school this large,” said incoming freshman and intended computer science student Armaan Varadaraj. “I’m glad to see my fellow students working so hard to make this less of a concern.”

Contact Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ishaansriv.

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