By: Emily Morris Monday, November 12
Our president Dr. Ora Pescovitz answered the most pressing questions of our university to keep students informed about the direction Oakland is heading in today at the most recent, ‘Ask Ora’.
Student Mental Health:
Following the tragic suicide of of Oakland student Stephen Dornan this fall, Dr. Pescovitz gave her condolences, which led into a discussion of Oakland’s provisions for mental health issues.
Despite Oakland offering some methods of guidance, there is simply not enough. Oakland currently has a waitlist of students actively trying to seek help that have no been attended to yet. To assist the students more efficiently, OU has begun contacting individuals on the waitlist to participate in group counseling.
A quarter of college students will experience depression to some extent, according to Glenn McIntosh, Director of Student Affairs and Diversity. Oakland has a number of faculty that are professionals in psychology and counseling, but this year the student to faculty ratio is not aligning. Every student is allotted six free visits to the Graham Health Center, which is meant to help students take the first steps in recovery; the timeliness of the visits is in question though.
Mental health is a serious issue among college students who are still forming the direction of their lives. Oakland University has available facilities to help students, but is still renovating their process to accommodate more people in need.
McIntosh said mental health struggles are “very real, but very silent,” which contributes to the difficulty to address all students.
Preparation for Tragedies:
Branching off Oakland University’s recent ability to cope with a student death, the next discussion point focused on OU’s ability to deal with criminal attracts that could result in tragedy. Mark Gordon, Oakland University Police Chief, believes effective responses is reliant on “police preparation”. Oakland University Police Department (OUPD) is highly trained and equipped for an array of disasters.
Gordon added, “We know that’s [police preparation] not enough though.”
Students and faculty need to take their part in ensuring Oakland University remains a safe campus also. Gordon addressed that “prevention” can be an important aspect when deciding what we can do to help. The police are there to help in the moment of a tragedy and before it happens. There is no right or wrong time to ask for help from the police.
“If you are concerned about it, it is concerning,” said Gordon.
Additionally, OUPD is encouraging faculty to teach students what to do in the event of a disaster during class time. Similar to grade school, many professors will soon explain the correct steps of action in a snow emergency, tornado, active shooter, etc. Students are also invited to sign up for OU’s emergency texting to be notified immediately of any of of these issues when they are outside of the classroom.
“We are very proud of the fact that Oakland University is a warm and inviting place for everyone,” said Dr. Pescovitz.
Oakland University is striving to offer a welcoming environment for all students, including veterans. In fact, Vandenberg Hall is now home to a new Veterans Affairs Office that is open to everyone to learn about our military and their affiliation here.
Dr. Pescovitz added, “We want veterans to see Oakland as the university of choice.”
Gender Diversity in Housing:
Glenn McIntosh, Director of Student Affairs and Diversity, described Oakland’s accommodation to gender equality in housing as “modernized”. McIntosh, himself, is actually an example of Oakland’s focus on inclusivity. McIntosh’s position as Director of Diversity was actually recently added by Dr. Pescovitz upon her presidency. Oakland is proud of their involvement in promoting equality throughout the campus.
Dr. Pescovitz continued to explained Oakland’s official goals—“student success”, “research” and “engagement in community”—and revealed that she had found a missing piece recently. Therefore, Dr. Pescovitz highlighted her focus to inclusion when she officially added “diversity, equity, and inclusion” as a fourth goal for Oakland University.
Dr. Pescovitz has taken steps to encourage inclusion at Oakland University with her time here so far, and there will be more improvements to come as time goes on.
Varner Hall Improvements:
One student expressed concerns about the state of Varner Hall, as the structure is increasingly outdated with no apparent solution. This is partially due to the decrease in state funds, creating a greater reliance on tuition. In the past, the state has contributed to 81 percent of our budget, while in recent years that percentage has dwindled to 18 percent.
Dr. Pescovitz offered a stepping stone to students who want to help the condition of Varner Hall, encouraging students to becoming “advocates”. She continued to explain the results that can be made by students “using your voices publically in the correct way.”
Student Organization Funding and Inclusion:
There are roughly 325 student organizations so “funding is competitive,” according to Glenn McIntosh, Director of Student Affairs and Diversity. McIntosh did confine that student organizations are a part of Oakland University and would like them to feel included. There is an “ongoing [process] in defining their relationship with the institution” though.
Dr. Pescovitz, on the other hand, was less familiar with any issues involving student organizations and promised to further research to come back with a more educated and thoughtful reply in the near future.
Although Dr. Pescovitz could not comment very extensively on the structural projects for the future. South Foundation Hall is promised to be renovated in the future and is Oakland University’s “number one priority.”
Dr. Pescovitz explained that Oakland’s graduate level programs have “opportunity to expand and grow.”
Oakland University has created more efforts to include international students and draw them to Oakland University. Currently, international students make up 4.6 percent of Oakland University’s student population so their comfort at OU is important, especially since OU would like to broaden the international student population. Oakland’s goal is to double the current percent in upcoming years.
To encourage a greater attendance, OU celebrates cultural diversity throughout various events. Additionally, all Oakland distributed food—the food court, Bear Cave, and cafeterias— now have Kosher options.
Ora’s Life Choices:
Dr. Ora Pescovitz describes herself as an “equal opportunity opportunist”. She sets goals for herself yet remains open to changes in life, going with the flow. To achieve goals, you must “be willing to follow different paths.”
For instance, Dr. Pescovitz initially wanted to be a musician but pursued a different path as opportunities revealed themselves. Dr. Pescovitz then became a pediatric doctor and eventually a CEO of a health system. Next she arrived at Oakland; she explained that becoming our president is her biggest accomplishment thus far.
All these opportunities were due to being open to trying new things.
“Never say no to great opportunities,” said Dr. Pescovitz.