In a recent study done by the Quaker Campus, the College is struggling with it’s mental and physical health. There are many initiatives put forth to help alleviate these issues, but ultimately the College is hurting.
After more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most life, health and wellness on both the physical and mental front have been very current topics of discussion. Now with the rise of new COVID-19 variants, the new disease Monkeypox, and the overturning of reproductive rights, health support is widely needed. And Whittier College is providing accessibility for both fields for all students, staff and faculty.
On September 1, 2022, Whittier College sent out an email talking about the current state of COVID-19 cases on campus. The Task Force stated that a campus-wide outbreak has happened that “over 200 students and employees have been exposed to a campus case.” Stating how the students, faculty and staff need to work together in order to “ensure that COVID-19 cases remain manageable as the semester progresses.” This comes after the College’s decision at the beginning of the semester to not mandate a negative COVID test for non-residential students before coming back on campus.
The steps in which Whittier calls on everyone to include are: “First, when you receive an exposure notification, it is extremely important to get tested in the timeframe specified and to complete the health screening if you are experiencing any symptoms.” They continue by saying that if you are feeling any symptoms of the disease, to report them using said health screening, to stay home, and to get tested.
Secondly, Whittier emphasizes their indoor masking policy on campus, and emphasizes the importance of keeping everyone in check by wearing a mask. The College understands that many individuals on campus are immunocompromised or know someone that is, and that wearing one greatly reduces the amount of COVID-19 cases on campus. The specifics of the masking policy on campus include: “Everyone is properly masked indoors unless alone in their office or residence hall room; Properly masked means that the mask covers your nose and mouth; Appropriate masks are surgical, KN95, and N95 (cloth masks are currently deemed insufficient); Everyone is masked in classrooms, labs/etc. and public/shared indoor spaces on campus; Everyone needs to be properly masked in building hallways, etc.; Faculty/students/staff need to be masked in offices when meeting with others.; [and that] Faculty/students may not negotiate their own mask policy for a particular course.” The College presses on the fact that if an individual sees someone not wearing a mask while indoors, that said individual should “Remind them of the policy and/or student code of conduct; Ask them to please put their mask on (or go get one); If they are non-compliant email the Dean of Students (for students) or Human Resources (for staff/faculty) and provide the individual’s name.” Finishing the email, the College states with desperation that “non-compliance will lead to disciplinary action. We are committed to the mask policy because it helps to protect our community and our friends who are most vulnerable to transmission. Please just wear your mask.”
For both COVID-19, and more general physical health emergencies, an undergraduate or graduate student is able to go to the Student Health and Wellness Center. The Center “provides primary health care services and health and wellness resources to all Whittier College”, at an affordable price. While there is no charge for the visit to the Health Center, “any medications prescribed, in-house labs, vaccines, or procedures will incur a fee. The nurse or provider can inform you of these fees ahead of time. Although no health insurance is required to see one of our providers, it is required for lab testing or for outside services such as x-rays or when seeing a specialist.” With that, no cash payments over twenty dollars is allowed, so any charge above that will be billed to the student’s account. They are located next to at the top of the Ball Parking lot to the left of the dorms, and require an appointment (but allow walk-ins on Monday mornings). The Center is staffed “throughout the academic year by multiple providers [i.e a Nurse Practitioner and Licensed Vocational Nurse] that hold rotating office hours Monday-Friday and see patients on an appointment-basis only.” You can schedule an appointment by calling 562.464.4548, or scheduling through the student health portal. The Center is open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m to 4:30 p.m; Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; and Friday 9:00 a.m to 2:30 p.m. The Center is always closed from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. everyday for lunch. If a student does not make the appointment, said individual will be charged twenty dollars.
The Student Health and Wellness Center is also encouraging students to pursue the new Telehealth services in order to “help support social distancing measures and limit exposure to COVID-19.” Telehealth (through the Virtual Care Group) is a physical and mental health service that works with colleges and universities to “make providing quality healthcare to… students as simple and convenient as possible.” The group’s statement prides itself on customizable plans; guided implementation; a collaborative partnership with the Group and the college; hassle-free service; quick and easy registration; “anytime, anywhere” access; a robust provider network; and specialized provider training. Whittier College students were sent multiple emails on Aug. 29, Aug. 22, and Aug. 15 about signing up to access a Telehealth Member account. The Member Health Portal “ allows you to be healthier with educational and interactive health management, risk assessment and decision support tools to help you take better care and promote prevention and a healthier lifestyle… [It] helps you to understand your medical issues, evaluate symptoms, and assess risks to initiate action in order to decrease those risks.” The “Member Console” allows students access to management about personal health, their medical records, and communication to health physicians. Students on this page can make appointments for consultations both for Urgent Care and Behavioral Health Student Counseling. You can also call the Telehealth appointment group, Televisits at 562.464.4548.
If you have any questions in regards to current COVID-19 and Monkeypox protocol on campus, you can read the Quaker Campus article: Orientation Issue: COVID-19 and Monkeypox Protocol for the Upcoming School Year, or email the COVID-19 Task Force at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you have more questions about health safety on campus, you can contact the Student Health and Wellness Center at email@example.com, or call them at 562.464.4548. For any questions about the Student Health and Wellness Center, you can email the Interim Director of Student Health & Wellness Center Tracy Ocampo, FNP-C at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Health and Wellness Center FAQ for answers to more questions.
Physical health is not the only kind of health that needs maintaining too. The National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) conducted a survey of 1,600 students between the ages of 18 and 29 about the current state of mental health on college campuses. Over “88 percent said they believe there [is] a mental health crisis on campuses nationwide; 51 percent said they [are] more stressed in 2022 than they were in 2021; 64 percent said they intend on seeking support for their mental health; [and] 70 percent said they [are] experiencing emotional distress from COVID-19.” This information points to the fact that mental health is declining, and more support is needed. Whittier College is answering that call with the following.
As stated previously, Whittier has implemented the Telehealth service to make getting mental health support faster and easier. The College has also implemented a new program to help get help with their health. Through the Unihealth Foundation and led by “Student Counseling Center Director Dr. Rebecca Eberle-Romberger”, Whittier College is implementing the Healthy Life Lab and Peer Health Educator (PHE) program which will “promote equitable health and wellness on campus.” This comes from a $600,000 grant given to the College by the Unihealth Foundation in order to “restructure and elevate the way the College addresses student health and wellness across the College, meeting current crisis needs and positioning the institution for improved post-pandemic health.” This is a hybrid fellowship/internship, which has been awarded to eight students so far. One of the awardees, a 2024 graduate WSP Sport Psychology student named Caitlin Rainey states that “this internship has given me the opportunity to work with all different types of students as well as varying resources on campus. I’ve always loved learning people’s stories and what has shaped them into the person sitting before me and I want to make a career out of it. I want to help people through tough situations and empower them to make healthy choices for all 8 of their dimensions of health and wellbeing. I absolutely love everyone on the team. We all have the same goal of wanting to help people and we’re all willing to give up our free time to do so. We’re a great resource on campus that is easily accessible to everyone. We spent a majority of the summer training on how to be the best resource for students we could possibly be. We all received multiple training certifications and love creating a safe space for our community.”
Shayla Sakkakhanaune, a 2025 graduate sociology student, shared similar sentiments. She states that “Being a Peer Health Educator gives me a chance to make a difference on campus– as a student myself, I’m able to listen to the needs and concerns of other fellow students and work with other PHEs to do something. This opportunity has already prepared me for my future career by helping me narrow down what I want to do; I’m only a second-year so I still have some time before I graduate. This summer’s guest speakers and shadowing opportunities have guided me towards a path that makes more sense for what interests me– sociology and how culture influences delivery of healthcare.” She continues by saying that she is “…very excited to be working with this group since we all come from different backgrounds and have different personalities. My favorite part about my other PHEs is that we always end our days together with smiles and laughs. As previously mentioned, the most appealing aspect of this internship was the opportunity to actually make a difference on campus by doing something, even if it’s a “small” act. By tabling, hosting events, and being able to bring up concerns to the attention of different departments, change can be made for the better, even if it takes time.”
Finally, a 2023 graduate biology student named Rayba Shaw continues this excitement. She states that “This internship has been a wonderful experience for me and has allowed me to improve my leadership and communication skills. As someone who hopes to enter the healthcare field, it gave me the opportunity to learn more about the importance of both physical and mental wellness. The best part of the internship was being able to work for and connect with the Whittier College community.”
According to the mission statement, the Peer Health Educators Program’s primary goal is to create “cohorts of student peer health educators who are professionally trained to address student health and wellness issues via peer-to-peer communication, programming, and support. PHEs will serve the Whittier College community and be the bridge between students and resources on campus with the goal of promoting equitable access to care.” This program is located on the first floor (LLC) of Johnson Hall, the resident building closest to the library. They are open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., through an appointment. You can find information around campus, on the picket signs near the Campus Inn, Hoover, and other buildings. Just look for the signs in the ground with inspirational quotes, QR codes, and titles that say WhittierInnovates.
This program is also through the collective Whittier College institute of the Counseling Center. The Counseling Center “promote[s] and foster[s] the emotional and psychological growth and well being of all students at Whittier College through assessment, short-term individual and couples therapy, referrals, education outreach events, and other on-campus services. Our staff has extensive experience in college counseling and is committed to providing high-quality services in a safe, confidential and non-judgmental atmosphere. Services are free of charge to currently enrolled undergraduate Whittier College students.”
There are many types of therapy that individuals can access at the Counseling Center. There are the LET’S TALK Virtual & In-Person Mental Health Consultations, which is an “informal, confidential consultation available at no cost for all full-time undergraduate students located in the state of California. Consultations are offered by graduate-level counselors from the Whittier College Student Counseling Center under the supervision of a licensed Psychologist.” You can call 562.907.4239 for more information. There is also individual therapy, couples therapy, grief counseling, refereels, mental health workshops, and a lending library with many mental health resources. There are other resources available for specific mental health emergencies at the Counseling Center page on the Whittier College website.
As stated before, students can schedule appointments through TeleHealth, or they schedule an in-person appointment by calling the Center at 562.907.4239, or emailing them at email@example.com. Or you can visit their office at Haverhill A (next to Campus Safety).
This is not the only change in health and wellness happening on the Whittier College campus this year. Announced on Aug. 24, starting this semester all student athletes and Executive Director of Athletics Rock Carter will be reporting to Vice President and Dean of Students Deanna Merino-Contino. It is part of a move with the Athletics into the Division of Student Life in order to help with the “part of our vision to be innovative with our health and wellness efforts. Athletics is a vital part of our campus community and its scope will be expanded to serve even more of our student body with programs around recreation and physical fitness. Going into the year we will seek feedback from students, faculty, and staff regarding plans for wellness, intramural, and recreational programs.” Deanna continues this sentiment by stating in an interview that since now that Athletics will be reporting to her, that means that she “oversees the charter, oversees the athletes”. They do not go to Deanna for wellness (athletes still report to Executive Director Rock Carter), but this is just a small step in a big plan for Whittier to work with the student government (ASWC) in order to understand how the community would like to “do wellness at Whittier”.
These groups will be sending out a survey to the College community in order to get more feedback on how to go forward with health and wellness. She has already received information from last spring about how to improve upon wellness at Whittier, including bringing back “intramural sports…making wellness visible on campus…going to yoga sessions, talking more about mental health.” Vice President of Marketing and Communications Ana Lilia Barraza says that “bringing in Athletics under Student Life… is to put an emphasis on wellness and fitness among all students.” She continues on saying how Athletics tends to be part of their own community, and bringing them into the Campus Center allows for “more contact with Athletics in a different way” than before. “It is a way to formalize that effort so that we have an emphasis for all students in health and wellness” Barraza continues. Merino-Contino closes out by saying “All students at Whittier have access to resources.”
While there are a plethora of resources available on campus for students, faculty, and staff for physical and mental health, there is still a disconnect between the College and the availability of wellness on campus. The Quaker Campus recently sent out a Google Survey to the entire Whittier College student population asking how they feel both physically and mentally, and whether the College has helped or hindered these feelings. With over 50 students answering the survey, here’s what Whittier has to say about the state of mental and physical health on campus.
To begin on a positive note, there are a few students who believe that Whittier is doing a great job in terms of mental and physical health support. A first year Kinesiology student says they are doing good, and that Whittier is there for them and to understand and get help in the situations they may be in. On the same lines, a first year Computer Science major states when answering the question “Do you think Whittier College has helped or hindered your mental health? If so, how and why?”. They state “Whittier College has definitely helped my mental health. I get to learn more about topics that I never even thought existed. It really eases my mind and allows me to expand my knowledge.”
But despite a few positive responses in the survey, an overwhelming majority of Whittier College students believe there is some way that the College can improve on support for both types of health. A first year student stated that her physical and mental health have been hindered by Whittier due to lack of accessible trails to run around campus, and the fact that the Campus Inn (CI) is not extended to be open to 3 p.m. Many students believe that counseling of all types needs to be more widely accessible for the community. A Fourth-year Psychology major states that their mental health is much like an “on fire garbage can”, and continues by sentiment by stating simply that “There is literally a waitlist out the door at the counseling center.” A Third-year WSP student goes along with these ideas by saying that it’s hard to deal with your emotions when there is “no safe space to talk about the struggles.” A fourth-year Psychology student agrees, stating that the College “need[s] to get people talking about how they’re feeling. Like, these are great because it encourages open communication, vulnerability, and honesty. We need to get people talking and know they’re not alone.” Another fourth-year Psychology major has similar sentiments, giving the solution to Whittier College saying that there should be more mental health counselors available easily, along with sports psychologists.
Whittier College is known for its hilly campus, and students take this in when thinking about their physical health. Many students regarded it as exercise by necessity. A fourth-year English major states that “I don’t work out, and I don’t expect the College to help me out on that, but the way this campus is laid out gives me a workout. I mean, it’s small but it’s hilly! That’s enough for me.” But despite the natural landscape of the campus, students still wish for more when it comes to exercising. A first-year Political Science major states that they “would love it if the [Graham Athletic Center] GAC posted more information about open weight room times and also gym times, such as for pickup games of basketball. I think it would also be nice if there were some school-run physical activities like ultimate frisbee or other fun activities!” A second-year sociology major shared similar frustrations about the Athletic Center saying how it was “only open to athletes which was frustrating because I am not an athlete therefore I could [not] use the gym. I had to pay extra to go use a different gym but I feel I could have started sooner if Whittier opened their gym to the public or promoted classes.”
Many of the problems students are facing also have to deal with the business and academic side of the College. Specifically when it comes to classes and the registrar. A third-year Psychology student explains their anger when it comes to the way the College handles the amount of credits a student can take at a time. They state that the College “do[es] not care about students’ mental well being when it comes to all of the courses and credits they need in order to graduate on time. A full time student is a student who is taking 12 credits. However, if a student were to sustain 12 credits a semester, they would not be on track to graduate in their fourth year, but rather would need to take an extra year in order to get their degree. This means that in order to stay on track students need to go to the new max credits which is 17 credits a semester with a few semesters having less than 17 credits in order to graduate on time, because taking 12 credits a semester for 4 years would set them 24 credits behind, which again is another two 12 credit semesters.” They continue by saying that the College “needs to find a way in order to not put so much pressure on students to achieve their academic goals and that they need to make it possible for students to have free time where they can have time to recoup from school rather than having loads and loads of homework where they cannot do anything else.” A Fifth+ Math and Physics student expresses their issue with the registrar, classes, and Degreeworks saying that their mental health has plummeted because they believed they were gonna graduate on time “until the business office told [them] [they] [were] missing a class [they] did not know [they] needed because Degreeworks suck[s].”
Many students also believe that Whittier College could improve on the physical and mental well-being of the campus with more of an emphasis on community, with activities to help! A Third-year WSP student suggests that the College should “organize more fun activities at better times of the day, on upper campus, and more spaces to sit and relax outside (picnic tables on North Lawn!).” There seems to be a disconnect between the community and what Whittier wants the community to be. A fourth-year French and Kinesiology student even goes to state how th[ere] is bullying on campus. They state that “No matter what age you are, having a community that you don’t feel always cares about you is tough.” They continue by stating that the College needs to improve upon “the culture among students to work together and be kind…”
Another stress on the general population at Whittier is the housing situation. Many headaches have been had when trying to get said accommodations (and living in them as well!) A first-year Math and Computer Science student states how the College has hindered their mental health due to Stauffer housing accommodations not being great. They state that they “cannot live in my own room [because] y’all do not have a basic AC. I do not have the personal space I’m paying for. It has affected my ability to focus on studies. I have more mental breakdowns because heat makes everything annoying.” They also call for the housing application website to be fixed. A second-year Sociology student shares similar sentiments of Stauffer stating that their “living situation last year hindered [their] mental health. It was depressing to live in Stauffer hall with no AC in the rooms and the bathrooms were always malfunctioning. [They] just [weren’t] happy overall with my living situation last year.”
There are other issues that make someone’s physical and mental health decrease here at Whittier College. Some other concerns involve a fourth-year Psychology student stating that they wish there were more healthy food options at the Campus Inn (CI). They state “The only downside of Whittier college is the limited choices of healthy foods at the cafeteria. The salad bar is great but maybe there can be more chia seeds, flax seeds, and/or even avocados?” A fourth-year WSP and Theater student states that they wish there was “better communication/ease of access to different departments and information.” A fourth-year Biology major states how they wish they knew where their money was being funneled at the College. They continue by stating how they wish there was more “Transparency with [the] financial state of the school.” Finally, a fourth-year Political Science and Visual Culture/Visual Media student expresses their anger about how they wish the College was more commuter friendly. Their mental health is hindered, and they continue this by saying that they wish the College “Actually [gave] a fuck about student needs and wants and make activities accessible to commuters.”
Whittier College has had its ups-and-downs in terms of physical and mental health. While the College provides a plethora of resources for the campus, there is an aura with the students that their voices are not getting heard. On Aug. 24, President Linda Oubre sent out an email to all of Whittier College talking about how the concept of “wellness” will be a vital one to look upon this academic year. She states that “If we learned anything during the pandemic it is that health and wellness have to be priorities in our lives. We cannot thrive academically or professionally if our minds and bodies are not in balance. At Whittier, we know that if we want to promote student success we must also promote overall wellness.” And while she ends the email saying they are still going to implement new health and wellness programs in the fall, one can only hope that they reflect the actual concerns of the people these programs will be for– the students.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus