By Aiman Zehra and Mohammad Basit Khan
University is a jumping-off point for many: a sudden, sometimes unwelcome, crossover to an age where protective veils are lifted and responsibilities are attached. The campus, hence, boasts a counselling system put in place for struggling students. But, is it a relief in this stress-induced environment or an added factor?
Student grievances right now revolve around the lack of quick availability of counsellors. We realise the difficulty in entertaining requests from large batches of students, larger still during exam season, but it is important to remember that taking the decision to involve a stranger in one’s personal life is taxing in itself. From there on, the road should be an easier one. We therefore urge the counselling office to make greater availability its top priority and follow through on their systemic remedies urgently.
Moreover, counselling spaces should be and feel like safe spaces. This may be made difficult with the existence of a contract allowing counsellors to involve parents if they feel that the student is a “threat” to themselves or others. We understand that this is done with the best intentions, but the ambiguity surrounding the definition of threat has pushed some away from seeking counselling at LUMS.
We do, however, commend the new head of counsellor, Tahira Haider, for creating a sense of urgency and constantly collaborating with the student council since her arrival earlier this semester on the following: the addition of two counsellors to the office, the development of an online forum emulating the model of the Facebook support group Help@LUMS, and a project on taking in Psychology majors as interns to provide a fresher counselling experience. While it’s certainly ambitious, the latter raises concerns due to the lack of qualifications and experience needed to offer help. We, thus, urge the office to lend legitimacy to this practice by closely supervising these internees at all times.
Furthermore, we understand that often counsellors are forced to put aside some emails for later dates due to the vagueness of subject matters shared on them. We appreciate that the counselling office acknowledges these inadequacies and has recently begun circulating questionnaires during preliminary stages to help it identify the cases in need of immediate attention.
The wellbeing of students in all regards should be the administration’s top priority. With health comes productivity, strength, dedication, determination, and happiness. The qualities we instill in our students here are what will shape and guide us in the future. Therefore, after assessing the challenges that the counselling system and students are facing, we suggest one thing: communication between the two parties that goes beyond the involvement of a select few student council members; we urge counsellors to stay in touch with the students who reach out to them and in turn, seek their help and their feedback in improving the system.