Importance of in-person Counseling Center services to the Baruch community

The Editorial Board

Two years of  COVID-19 has taken a toll on Baruch College students, exacerbating their pre-existing emotional and financial difficulties. Nevertheless, Baruch has made significant strides in improving access to mental health services for its student body with the help of the CARES Act, a $5 million CUNY-wide federal grant.

With these strides, the Baruch Counseling Center should continue pushing forward its initiatives to all students as it returns to in-person services. Currently, the Counseling Center offers essential and accessible mental health services to all students.

When previously interviewed by The Ticker, Dr. Teresea Hurst, the director of the Counseling Center, said that the increased funding could provide more services.

“We will be able to provide more mental health services to our students, including a suicide prevention counselor and a trauma counselor through May 14, 2021,” Hurst said. “With these funds, CUNY will also be offering a text-based treatment service for students residing in other countries at this time, in addition to some other services.”

Teletherapy offers greater convenience and safety for some students, but also requires internet access and a private space, which not all Baruch students have.

According to a 2020 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on disparities in internet access and COVID-19 vaccinations in New York City, “The median percentage of households without internet access was 15.5%.”

Additionally, “Disparities in internet access exist across multiple socioeconomic dimensions and disproportionately affect low-income neighborhoods.”

Even students with internet access may not have the private space necessary to participate in virtual counseling.

Relative to historical averages, fewer homes have been built for more than a decade. This, combined with skyrocketing rents, means many college-aged New Yorkers share small apartments with their families, friends, partners or other roommates, The New York Times reported.

The lack of privacy when living in tiny spaces may also cause psychological problems as a result of inconvenience and crowding. This lack of privacy means that students facing interpersonal issues or even abuse at home cannot benefit from virtual counseling, The Atlantic reported.

Without the option for in-person counseling at Baruch, students facing such living conditions have fewer opportunities to get the services they’re seeking. Thus, it is important that in-person services are known to all Baruch students through social media and email.

This semester, most Baruch students and faculty have returned to the physical campus, a change in-line with Baruch’s goal, stated in its official communications, of “delivering 70% of our instruction face-to-face.”

Because the Counseling Center’s services are so vital, it is in its best interests to continue offering services both online and in-person, and to publicize those in-person opportunities well.

After all, the Counseling Center being in-person without any students knowing it’s in-person is pretty much the same as the center not being open in-person.