Letter to The Editor: CPG, Admissions, ACAB

Mary Kelley, Scarlet Staff

It is no secret that Clark has its share of problems, one being the potentially dangerous presentation of CPG. The Center for Counseling and Personal Growth, or CPG, is one of the most lauded feathers in Clark’s cap. When touring colleges my junior year of high school, Clark stood out for their exemplary mental health awareness and programs of support for students. I felt like I was finally entering into a community where talking about the things that made my life isolated and difficult (prior to college) was normal and accepted. A community of people who can freely speak about their mental health and challenges that do not affect more “neurotypical” folk. Clark was marketed as an inclusive community that realized how much of a support system inclusivity requires. 

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression than heterosexuals. 

BIPOC students are living in America in the 2020s. That is simply reason enough to require therapy. 

ACAB, David Fithian. 

At every admissions event I attended before choosing Clark, I personally asked if there were therapists available at CPG for weekly appointments. I was always told “yes” and “that is exactly what they are for.” Yet, after meeting with three different practitioners at CPG, I was told that that is precisely not what they do. CPG is mainly an emergency resource, and even considering that, the program is still struggling.

But that is all CPG offers. The occasional group therapy, a physiatrist for regular med management, and emergency situations. So, why is Clark Admissions lying about the capabilities of CPG? 

I toured about 20 schools in the course of making my college decision and none of them had therapists on campus. Most had an office designated to helping students make connections or some links on a website somewhere. Clark told me they had therapists right off campus for students to utilize. Clark’s admissions department was where I was told that regular appointments with a designated counselor were available for all students for free. CPG did not correct me, and when I asked professionals there similar questions, I received similar responses until I got a one-on-one with a therapist. After going into some detail about what I was seeking from regular therapy after several visits, I was told that these appointments were meant for more emergency visits or in-between therapists. I could continue going once a month as check up visits, but could not continue going weekly as I had with former counselors, and that the visits would not serve beyond a surface level support. This is still a better service than offered by most universities, even with the present flaws. The issue lies more in how they are marketed and how that false advertisement only harms potential incoming students.

CPG’s crisis hotline leaves something to be desired: long wait times, abruptly ended calls, and a lack of follow-through on CPG’s part. A fellow student reported being kept on hold for 20 minutes during an emergency. The crisis line ensured the students immediate safety, and then put them on hold for 20 minutes. After waiting for an absurd amount of time warranted during a crisis, someone tried talking to the student for approximately two minutes before promptly hanging up due to alleged poor cell service. Though the counselor on the other line had promised to call back, the students reported no such thing. No follow up for a student in a self stated emergency and not even a phone call to ascertain the reason for the hang up. There are other hotlines, like the Crisis Text Hotline (174-174) manned by volunteer counselors. These are more likely than CPG to actually be of help to a student in crisis. Clark repeatedly pushes CPG on students and then CPG repeatedly underperforms, putting students in genuine danger. Instead of misleading students on CPG’s capabilities, Clark should promote working hotlines and keep CPG as a resource for emergency counseling – alternatively the university could designate more funds and resources to improve their crisis hotline. 

Maybe Becker has a better counseling program that Clark can just absorb. 

Clark has certain procedures that are public information, the sort of information in student handbooks and emergency protocol booklets taped to each dorm door. It has protocols around plagiarism, bomb threats, gas leaks, active shooters, sexual assault, and natural disasters, but nothing about mental health emergencies. Scratch that, you are actually advised to call the police. The university has no plan other than relying entirely on the police, and there isn’t even information available about campus police protocols in mental health emergencies available for students. This is limited to what Clark has made public online – there is no current student handbook for the 2020-2021 semester and some protocols and procedures are not available to the general public. That’s fine, but colleges are supposed to have these protocols readily available in student handbooks. 

What are Clarkies supposed to do? I suffered through unsuccessful visits to CPG that put off me finding a long term counselor, all of which could have been avoided if Clark were more upfront with the reality of their resources. I feel like Clark lied to us. These promises never had to be made and yet they were and false hope was instilled. 

I suppose the Freud statue should have been a red flag, an acknowledgement of how outdated the university is in regards to mental health and general wellbeing. CPG is a flawed program, but still an asset to the university. The danger comes with the misrepresentation of CPG and the lack of protocols in place for students to safely navigate mental health emergencies – something not just unsafe for the student, but a liability for the university as well. Clark needs to do better, needs to be better. 

-Mary Kelley, Class of 2023