In response to increased awareness of the need to address issues affecting student mental health, the University of Waterloo established an advisory committee to prepare a report with actionable recommendations to improve the mental health of undergraduate and graduate students on and off campus. The President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH) report was submitted to the President in February 2018 and publicly released on March 14, 2018.
The PAC-SMH report was the culmination of a campus-wide consultation effort that included a Steering Committee (9 members) and five advisory panels: a) mental health experts panel (16 members); b) academic panel (21 members); c) community partners panel (18 members); d) student experience panel (19 members); and e) student services panel (18 members). The report built on recommendations of the 2012 University of Waterloo Mental Health Review and an extensive array of submissions to the steering committee and advisory panels in a seven-month period.
The final PAC-SMH provided 36 recommendations related to campus policies and practices; inclusive and supportive campus culture; mental health awareness and communication; prevention and early intervention; service access and delivery; and broad campus-wide matters related to student mental health. Following release of the report, a committee was struck to provide leadership and oversight in order to bring these recommendations to fruition.
2. Roles and Functions of the Committee on Student Mental Health
This committee has been established to develop and implement a plan to translate the PAC-SMH report’s recommendations into specific actions consistent with the intent and purpose of each recommendation. It will also have an on-going role to ensure the long-term continuity of the changes arising from that report in the life of the University. The committee will include stakeholders from across campus, as well as external partners, to support mobilization of the report’s recommendations into all aspects of the University of Waterloo’s culture, functions and activities.
The Committee on Student Mental Health will:
- develop an implementation plan for enacting the report’s recommendations by:
- prioritizing the recommendations to identify those that should be implemented in the short, medium and long term;
- identifying key stakeholders to be engaged and resources required to support working groups to implement each recommendation;
- providing advice to working groups and monitor the implementation process for each recommendation with regard to the agreed timelines for achieving milestones;
- monitoring risks to implementation and providing recommendations to reduce, manage or mitigate those risks;
- develop a long-term strategy for integration of the work of the Committee into the on-going culture, functions and activities of the University.
3. Role of Individual Committee Members
The role of each member of the Committee on Student Mental Health includes:
- attending regular meetings and actively participating in the work of the Committee;
- providing diverse perspectives of students, staff, and faculty on and off campus, including satellite campuses;
- serving as a resource to the committee providing expertise or insights relevant to the PAC-SMH report recommendations;
- acting as a liaison between the Committee and other stakeholder groups, including individual faculties, University services, student groups, alumni, external partners;
- participating in communication and knowledge dissemination activities to increase awareness of efforts to implement PAC-SMH report recommendations.
4. General Considerations
4.1 Membership and Voting
Each Committee member will have a vote on matters requiring formal committee approval or endorsement. The Committee will be comprised of the Chair and:
- Associate Provost, Students
- Director, Campus Wellness
- Six faculty members at-large, one each from the Faculties of:
- Applied Health Sciences
- Environmental Studies
- Three students at-large, one each representing:
- Undergraduate students
- Graduate students
- International students (either graduate or undergraduate)
- One representative each of the following University stakeholders:
- Co-operative Education
- Counselling Services or Health Services
- Federation of Students
- Graduate Students Association
- One representative from external mental health partner organizations (e.g., CMHA)
- One Alumni representative
As per the PAC-SMH report, addition sub-committees will be established and will report to the Committee on Student Mental Health:
- Cultural competency strategy committee charged with reviewing campus policies, procedures and practices in consideration of race, ethnicity, faith, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status. This sub-committee’s membership includes but is not limited to:
- GLOW Centre for Sexual & Gender Diversity
- Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre
- At least one of the international student association(s)
- Working group on exams and evaluations to develop implementable best practices regarding exams and student evaluations with a wellness viewpoint in mind. The working group’s membership includes but it not limited to:
- Centre for Teaching Excellence
- Registrar’s office
- Executive sub-committee comprised of the Chair, Associate Provost Students and Director, Campus Wellness, one student at-large and one faculty member at-large will meet between regularly scheduled meetings of the full Committee on an as-needed basis to ensure continuity of the workflow. A quorum will be based on attendance of at least the Chair and two other members of the sub-committee.
- Other working groups will be struck on an as-needed basis with the recommendation of the Committee. For example, it is expected that a specific working group will be created to deal with health systems issues and will include counselling services, health services, Centre for Mental Health Research, external partner organizations, and police. Similarly, there may be a need for a working group on health promotion strategies.
4.1.2 Ad Hoc Advisors
The Committee on Student Mental Health may occasionally call on other members of the University Community to provide advice or support on specific matters on an ad-hoc, time limited basis. These individuals will sit as non-voting members of the Committee.
The Committee on Student Mental Health will be chaired by John P. Hirdes, Professor, School of Public Health and Health Systems.
The Chair will convene meetings and will be supported by administrative/project coordination staff through the Vice President, Academic and Provost’s Office, a doctoral student research assistant, and a Co-op student. If the Committee determines that additional resource are required, these will be arranged through the office of the Vice President, Academic and Provost.
The Committee on Student Mental Health will report directly to the President.
4.6 Agenda Items
Agenda items and associated materials for consideration at each meeting will normally be sent to Committee members at least five business days in advance of the meeting.
4.7 Minutes of Meetings
Minutes of meetings will be produced by the administrative support staff provided through the Office of the Vice President Academic and Provost and will be reviewed by the Chair prior to circulation.
Complete copies of the minutes and relevant attachments will normally be sent to Committee members within 10 business days of the meeting.
With the agreement of the Committee, out-of-session decisions will be acceptable and will be recorded in the minutes of the following regularly scheduled meeting.
4.8 Frequency of Meetings
The Committee on Student Mental Health will normally meet on a monthly basis. Additional ad-hoc meetings may be required at the call of the Chair.
4.9 Proxies to Meetings
One alternate representative to the Committee on Student Mental Health will be permitted for the each of the Faculty, Federation of Students, Graduate Students Association, and Campus Wellness representatives. Where possible, members who are unable to attend a meeting will notify the Chair that the alternate will attend at least five business days in advance.
A quorum will be deemed in effect when half the Committee plus one member are present.
The composition, function and effectiveness of the Committee on Student Mental Health will be reviewed after the first and second years of its operation.
The Committee on Student Mental Health will be a forum for discussion of policy, regulatory and operational options for the University’s approach to enhancing student mental health. In order to ensure a free flow of ideas and appropriate depth of discourse, the discussions of the committee will be treated as confidential to the Committee. Public statements about the Committee’s deliberations will be released through the Chair or designate(s) from the Executive Committee.