Emmons must expand services to satisfy students’ needs


Most Occidental students know the feeling: an all-too-familiar ominous stomach churn, in that back-seat-of-a-minivan-over-potholed-streets kind of way. It can make even the most unyielding student begin to think over their last few days, reconsidering every choice that led to the moment of undeniable sickness, from questionable Marketplace decisions to the Camelbak they swigged in the library courtesy of their friend, who repeatedly swore they just had “a light cough.”

In the cesspool that is college life, it seems like cold season never ends. From the constant flow of flu cases and yeast infections, pollution-induced asthma attacks and sprained ankles from unexpected tumbles down the Norris hill, students at Occidental regularly encounter obstacles that affect their health and detract from their capacity to be actively engaged students. They turn to Emmons for assistance and relief. Yet, student frustration with Emmons seems to be as consistent as the illnesses themselves. In order to tackle the overwhelming, germ-infested world of college, Emmons needs to extend their hours to weekends, hire more practitioners and improve their diagnoses.

Checkups, for one, can be difficult to arrange. With students’ schedules jam-packed with classes, work and commitments, many hope to get a quick solution to their illnesses, attempting to squeeze in a strep test between Introduction to Geology and a shift at the Green Bean. With walk-in hours only taking place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday–Friday, students tend to cram in their visits at the same times during the weekdays, creating a consistently packed waiting room.

Josie Pesce (sophomore) recalled a recent Emmons visit in which she waited for two hours on a Monday afternoon for a practitioner to check her ears and throat only to conclude she was, in fact, over her cold. With three medical practitioners and a 2,100-student campus, the wait time seems to be inevitable, making the process of checking for contagion even more grueling and time consuming. But the inaccessibility of Emmons on weekends is the most pressing concern.

Senior Director of Student Wellness Sara Semal states that the Health Center’s choice to close on weekends is due to financial limitations. In order to provide staffing on weekends, acquiring additional funding as well as skilled practitioners willing to take part-time weekend work is both essential and incredibly difficult. With Occidental’s blossoming endowment under Veitch’s presidency, the funding of student’s health and medical attention must be a priority. The freshly cultivated lawn at the front of campus serves no purpose if students are too feverish to lay on it.

In contrast, counseling services have increased their accessibility in the last few years, but the limitation of lack of weekend hours still applies. The counseling services include an intake, establishing and diagnosing any problems the student may have, along with six free sessions and $10 follow-ups. Semal remarks via email that she feels counseling services are accessed, but the support groups and peer mentors sponsored by Emmons are not always used and could be beneficial. In this vein, an anonymous sophomore said that due to the span of time between appointments and to closed offices on the weekends, therapy sessions are often only able to cover surface issues, offering Band-Aid solutions. Although some students have found counseling helpful and the staff has grown, the demand is still higher than the services able to be provided.

This summer, Semal plans to revamp the Emmons website to ensure that care information is accurate and that the ways to access care are explained thoroughly. She assures that once this is updated, students will have a much smoother time finding and accessing the local resources that are available for weekend urgent care as well as outside psychological services. While this is a step in the right direction, it is concerning that Occidental’s own health services are not improved instead.

By extending hours and making the necessary improvements to both the medical and psychological services, Oxy students will no longer have to trust roommates to verify fevers, and the quiet section will no longer be home to students spiraling dangerously deep into WebMD.

Maggie Duffy is a first-year sociology major. She can be reached at mduffy@oxy.edu.