Fostering a Culture of Care
March 29, 2023
I write to you today to seek your help in building a resilient campus…a campus that fosters a culture of care and belonging. In recent weeks, we, as a community, have gone through enormous pain and grieving as we grappled with the aftermath of two suicides on campus. While we can do certain things in the short term, the long-term solutions lie in building a culture of resiliency and care, and you are an important part of this effort. We need your voice, your ideas and your participation.
First of all, I want you to know that we—the faculty, staff and administration—care deeply about you. With 60,000 faculty, staff and students, the campus may feel like an impersonal place. But please know that we define our success with your success. We are committed to you, and we are here for you.
Here are a few initiatives on campus and I would love to hear any other ideas that you may have.
Future of Agnes Arnold Hall: I have convened a task force on the future of the Agnes Arnold Hall building. We are putting all options on the table and will decide short and long-term solutions to the building in coming weeks. While students have representation on the task force, if you have any thoughts or suggestions that you want the task force to consider, you can send them directly at this email.
Task Force on Mental Health: I have established another task force on mental health in general, with a focus on building a community of care and resilience. Again, students have a seat at the table; however, I invite you to share your thoughts individually here for task force input.
Strengthening CAPS: I am engaging external experts to review our Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). These experts will come from the nation’s most resilient campuses to (a) review the approach, strategy, structure and resources at CAPS; and (b) offer best practices for us to follow. I heard your concerns and want to make sure that they get addressed.
Suspension of CAPS Fees: I understand your concern about the CAPS fees, and we’ve acted. Starting immediately, single session, individual counseling and couples counseling fees are all waived. Those fees were always in place to reduce no shows; however, we do not want them to be a barrier to anyone receiving the care that they need during this critical time.
Classroom Visits: Every Fall Semester, I visit classrooms to welcome freshmen. Given the recent events, beginning in April I am adding several more this semester to highlight mental health and assure you that the campus community cares deeply about you.
Roundtables: I have been holding two roundtables every semester in which I sit down with students and learn how to make our university a better place. Given the recent events, I will start holding weekly roundtables through the month of April. If you have an hour to spare and would like to attend, please email me at President@uh.edu. I always enjoy being with you and learning from you.
National Initiative to Build a Resilient Campus: Realizing the growing mental health crisis on college campuses, last April we joined the JED Campus initiative to enhance our focus on the overall well-being of students, faculty and staff. JED Campus is a nationwide initiative of The Jed Foundation (JED), has helped us take a systematic and evidence-based review of how we can improve the emotional health and well-being of our students and decrease suicides. Please consider joining this initiative.
Toolkit and Training: We are preparing a toolkit to broadly distribute to faculty, staff, students and families who can be an important part of building a resilient campus. And our QPR Suicide Prevention Training is currently available to you.
Help Others and Volunteer: Suicide is a leading cause of deaths in America. The crisis is broader and deeper than on college campuses. There are many nonprofit organizations in Houston who provide support and intervention. Should you wish to help the cause, you can do so by reviewing the volunteer directory here.
While we can do a few things institutionally, in the end, each one of us will have to do our part in creating a more caring community. Reach out to one another and show that you care. If you find someone disengaged, please help them seek the needed support. We can build a better campus together.
With my very best wishes,Renu Khator