EDITORIAL: Vote ‘Yes’ on the CAPS Fee Referendum

AS Elections 2020 - EditorialEditorialOpinion

Courtesy of UCSD CAPS

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The Triton endorses a ‘yes’ vote on the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) Fee Referendum. In this year’s ASUCSD election, the student body will be voting to add this student fee to fund mental health services and programs on campus.

If the referendum passes, an additional student fee will be added to fund mental health services and programs on our campus. For the referendum to pass, at least 20% of the student body must participate in the election in general, or else it will automatically fail. If a majority of that 20% support the new fee, it will pass and be added to future student fees. Starting at $20.71 for the 2020-21 school year, the fee will steadily increase each year to $35.71 in the 2023-24 school year. The fee will then be re-evaluated and the Chancellor must approve any proposed changes after review of the CAPS budget.

CAPS serves as the UCSD’s main support system for students struggling with their mental health, it is the only way students can see a therapist. It is no secret that although CAPS has been on our campus since the 1960s, it does not provide adequate care to support the 30,000 undergraduate students, 8,000 graduate students, and staff members at UCSD. As previous op-eds have pointed out, the staggering 1 to 1,500 full-time employee to student ratio makes it impossible for CAPS to meet the demand for mental health support. On average, appointments occur three weeks after they are made. CAPS is, in its current state, an unstable bridge for students to seek healthcare off campus.

The importance of mental health cannot be understated, especially for college students. According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Health, anxiety and depression comprise over half of the diagnoses that college students receive. Worse, 64% of respondents reported that they dropped out of school for mental health reasons, and half of the respondents did not have access to mental health services or accommodations. The survey results not only reflect the lack of attention given to mental health issues on college campuses but also highlight the close relationship between academic success and mental health.

These findings are not directly applicable to our student body, as we have a diverse student population and 82 percent of those surveyed were white, further more inclusive research should be done and integrated into our mental health services.

Regardless of available data, if you go to UCSD you understand the prevalence of unaddressed mental health conditions on this campus. We see it online and among our close friends. The main controversy of this referendum is not whether or not CAPS should have increased funding (it seems obvious that this is necessary), but rather that the fee will come directly out of students’ pockets.

About 30% of the funds from the fee will go directly to financial aid for students in need. A Student Mental Health Advisory Committee (SMHAC) will provide oversight of funds generated by the fee. A student will chair SMHAC and at least 80% of the voting membership will be students. As such, the fee will go back to supporting the students. This is why the Triton feels we must support the referendum.

However, we also feel it is important to investigate why students must create a special fee in the first place to get their basic needs met. The fact that this fee must be paid by students indicates that the administration is unwilling to fund mental health from its own budget, favoring construction and other campus projects.

Over the past few decades, as the UC Campuses’ state funding has repeatedly been held stagnant despite inflation, we see a higher percentage of the cost coming from student’s tuition. This is troubling for what are supposed to be public institutions. This referendum is a reflection of this approach to public education: when adequate funding is withheld by those in power, it is the students themselves who must provide it. The administration must reevaluate their spending to prioritize student safety and cut costs in the budget to make room for better mental health services and programs on our campus.

Voting ‘yes’ for the CAPS Fee Referendum feels, in some ways, like further capitulation to the administration. Ultimately, however, until the administration is pressured to adequately fund these vital services, this is the best way to serve the mental health needs of the UCSD community now. Though it represents a successful squeeze of the UCSD student body by administrators who refuse to take our health needs seriously, it nevertheless is an opportunity to take mental health into our own hands. Imposing the fee will not solve mental health problems on our campus, but it does act as a temporary measure to ensure students can receive the mental health care we deserve and desperately need.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Triton Editorial Board. If you’d like for us to publish a response or if you’d like to comment on a different issue affecting the UCSD or UC community, you may do so here.