RenewTU, the executive branch of Temple University Student Government, will spend the 2021-22 academic year advocating for students’ physical and mental wellbeing, said Student Body President Bradley Smutek and Vice President Samantha Quinlan.
Smutek, a senior history major, and Quinlan, a junior media studies and production major, were inaugurated on April 26 after winning an unopposed election earlier that month, The Temple News reported.
In preparation for the Fall 2021 semester, RenewTU spent the summer encouraging students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and follow Temple’s COVID-19 policies as they returned to campus, Quinlan said.
“Temple has made it extremely difficult not to get vaccinated, they’ve made it extremely accessible,” Quinlan said.
On Aug. 13, Temple announced that all students, faculty, staff and contractors will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15 in accordance with the City of Philadelphia’s vaccine mandate for local colleges and universities, The Temple News reported.
RenewTU wants to improve access to mental health resources for students on campus. The administration will work to share Temple University Police Department’s procedures and practices for dealing with mental health-related calls with the student body, Smutek said. However, RenewTU will still continue to advocate for a Mental Health Response Team made up of mental health professionals and social workers who will help students who are experiencing mental health crises, Quinlan said.
Currently, Temple defers reports of mental health crises to Campus Safety Services when a person is immediately at risk of self-harm or interpersonal violence, wrote Charles Leone, director of Campus Safety Services, in an email to The Temple News.
Students experiencing a mental health crisis can contact Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services during business hours, the mental health crisis service at Campus Safety Services after business hours or their resident assistant for assistance if they live in university housing, according to Tuttleman Counseling Services.
There are also a number of hotlines listed on Tuttleman’s website and 24-hour services, like Campus Safety Services, Temple’s Episcopal Hospital Crisis Response Center or emergency services.
Students not in need of immediate assistance can also be referred to the Crisis Assessment, Response and Education Team, a group that supports students in crisis, according to Tuttleman Counseling.
RenewTU is still advocating for wellness days, one of the initiatives they ran their campaign on, despite some concerns from administration about not having enough academic days in the calendar to maintain the university’s accredited status, Smutek said.
“When we had come into office, the academic calendar for 2021-2022 was set, and so this is something that it would have been helpful,” Smutek said. “And so, we still haven’t given up on it, this current year. But I think definitely our focus has shifted to making sure it’s implemented in the 2022-23 school year.”
RenewTU is also creating an initiative for all on-campus organizations to have an accessibility officer, who will ensure the organization provides information about itself to any student seeking it, said William Boyer, a senior adult and organizational development major who serves as RenewTU’s chief of staff.
“This officer would ensure that all student groups follow all American with Disabilities Act guidelines and are accessible for all students,” Boyer said. “This would mean students have access to any organization regardless of any disability.”
Smutek added that RenewTU wants to bring back Owls on the Hill, an initiative for Temple students to travel to Harrisburg and discuss issues they feel are important to the student body with legislators.
As the year continues, RenewTU will focus on raising school spirit through a series of upcoming events, like Sex Ed. Bingo and a weekend devoted to promoting civic advocacy. RenewTU will also host a wellness week encouraging self-care and school spirit, Smutek added.
“My biggest goal is really trying to bring back a sense of campus spirit and positivity that’s been missing,” Smutek said.