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March 4, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Mental Health in Halls: The Letter

The University has since responded here.
VUWSA has since responded here.

To our latest batch of Freshers,

In 2018, Salient revealed the true colours of the university. It shone a light on how much university truly cares about the wellbeing of its students.

Salient told the harrowing story of Dani Saundry, a young woman struggling through depression in a system that refused to support her. When at her most vulnerable, after reaching the lowest point in her life and attempting suicide, the university removed her from her hall, the roots of her support system.

Naturally, the response from VUWSA and the student body was outrage and calls for action. The university still owes an apology to Dani Saundry for its decisions. But rather than take ownership; rather than fulfilling their pastoral responsibility, they decided Dani Saundry wasn’t their problem. At the very least, people called for a change in policy. That is not what we received.

A request under the powers of the Official Information Act 1982 revealed the university’s response to these calls. Rather than make an effort to improve they chose to double down. The university’s website now contains the following official policy, which ultimately boils down to the following quote:

Students are treated with care and compassion, even if ultimately a decision has to be made that they are not happy with.

Or paraphrased to hide the true intentions of the policy:

We retain the right to make decisions autonomously against the student’s will.

The information provided by the OIA request revealed this policy was updated not just after Salient’s exclusive report on Dani Saundry’s story, but that “This is in response to allegations in the media about halls students being “evicted” following suicidal [sic] and behaviour.” The university executive remains more worried about covering their own ass than making a difference in student welfare.

Despite backlash and rebuke, the university, not to the surprise of older students, continues to back away from its responsibility for the welfare of students. Make no mistake, your tuition pays for little more than a seat to put your ass on. Reaching out for help in your hall of residence may not be the most supportive experience.

Having to write that sentence has me trembling with anger. University is a path of self discovery and hardship. Young people deserve support through that. But this university isn’t here for that.

University is a tough time. University students have the highest presenting rates of anxiety and depression in society. Organisations like Youthline and Te Haika are there to support young people suffering with mental health. It is okay to rely on your friends and support network for help. It is always important to reach out when you need help. Unfortunately, the university is more worried about hoarding your tuition money than seeing you succeed.

Faithfully,

Richard Beere

Emotionally exhausted 3rd year.

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