March 12, 2019

On student mental health and well-being

As we enter the final days of winter quarter, we write with great sadness to acknowledge the recent deaths of two graduate students, and the sense of loss and grief across our university community. We would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to their friends, family, classmates, faculty members, and neighbors. During this difficult time, we would also like to remind everyone in our campus community of the resources available to you, and encourage all of you to continue to care for one another.

The loss of these community members underscores the importance of our work to support student mental health and well-being. In our roles as university leaders, we are dedicated to listening to everyone in our community, and to improving our culture. Several undergraduates and graduate students have asked what measures the university is taking to address their needs, and we assume this question is on the minds of many.

We would like to provide an update on initiatives underway to address the struggles our students face, ranging from the academic and financial to the physical and psychological, and beyond. Informed by recent discussions with students, faculty and staff, as well as effective practices at other institutions, some of the steps we are taking include the following:

  • Student Affairs will soon pilot a new approach to wellness coaching and advising that will involve embedding counselors within community and academic spaces.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services is taking multiple steps to expand access to services and to continue to ensure culturally sensitive counseling for our diverse student populations. These actions include hiring additional counseling staff and revising intake and care models.
  • Our academic units are piloting new trainings to help academic advisors, staff, and faculty recognize signs of distress and to offer compassionate and appropriate support to students.
  • We are collaborating with students, faculty and staff to change the culture of graduate advising, including the implementation of a new university policy that clearly places responsibility on faculty in departments to articulate advising expectations that support students’ degree progress.

Meanwhile, the Affordability Task Force is taking a fresh look at the financial needs of graduate students. This includes soliciting input from graduate students to identify high-priority areas of financial strain. This collaboration is occurring even as we are augmenting several need-based grant programs and dramatically expanding subsidized housing for graduate students.

We believe a deep and abiding sense of belonging is fundamental to a student’s well-being. The three of us are leading significant campus-wide efforts, such as the president’s IDEAL (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Access in a Learning Community) initiative to increase the sense of community and belonging at Stanford among all our students.

We are interested in hearing from everyone with suggestions on this work. Together, we are committed to creating a university community where we each experience health and well-being as the foundation of our shared commitments to education, research, and service.

We extend our heartfelt support to all in this time of loss.