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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Columns2014-2015

Professors need to address mental health clause in syllabuses

Think about how many syllabuses the average student gets during his or her time in college: five to six classes a semester for eight semesters. That is at least 40 syllabuses. Each includes the same major sections: office hours, course objectives, required texts, due dates and attendance policies. Each, though sometimes repetitive and tedious, is necessary to outline the expectations for the upcoming semester. An important component that is not found in every syllabus, though, is a statement about mental health.

Each year, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services releases a general statement that professors are encouraged to put in their syllabuses about diminished mental health. The short paragraph covers signs to watch for, like mood changes and lack of motivation, and it also provides details about resources on campus such as CAPS. It explains that problems with mental illness can have a large impact on academic performance, and it is important to address such concerns.

The problem is that the statement is simply encouraged, not mandated, by Ithaca College to be included. Though in the past few years CAPS has reported an increased use of the mental health statement, it is still not used by every professor or in every class.

Another problem is though professors include the statement, they do not always discuss it on the first day of classes. There is often a point in the syllabus where professors say, “And you know the rest,” but it should not be expected that all students know poor mental health can negatively impact academics due to factors like lack of focus and decreased motivation or about the resources available to them on campus. CAPS suggests, along with placing the statement in syllabuses, that professors facilitate a short discussion about the importance of good mental health.

A widely supported statistic is that one in four college students suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. With that being the case, it is important that students are given the opportunity to take care of their mental health. If professors take the time to include even brief statements in their syllabuses, the college would be taking a huge step toward reducing the stigma and providing students with more confidence when approaching the topic of mental health.

So, for next semester, professors should include the CAPS statement and not just brush over it while covering the syllabus. Professors want their students to do well and, since poor mental health negatively impacts academics, they should take it seriously.