Dispatches from the Future
It's Getting Hot in Here
Finally, all of the students have moved out of the dorms. Diversion Excursion diverted 15 tons of materials from resident life this year! It is the 150th anniversary of CSU, Chico, and all of the resident life will be heading to the various graduations. I have been the Resident Life Director for the past 20 years, and this year students seem to be thriving more than ever. It has been a stressful year, like many have been in the recent years, due to the changing climate. I am surprised we have thrived this much, but it is partially due to fully funded mental health and stress management for climate change. Over a decade ago, in September 2021, the campus was hit with a two-week extreme heat wave, above 104 degrees. Two students committed suicide from the stress-related heat, one in Whitney Hall, one in Sutter. CSU Fresno had a similar heat wave, and two students committed suicide there. With those events, the state legislature jumped into action and passed an emergency funding bill for the CSU System to address mental health and climate change impacts. Each campus in the CSU System was told to submit for funding request to address students mentally affected by climate change. Funding was a 5 year basis, with room to ask for funding annually if events come up unexpectedly. A large portion of the funding for CSU Chico goes to support resident life.
Now, there are two full-time therapists just for residents, and every resident assistant is trained to help with any mental health issues that arise in the residents. The residents are required to have at least one appointment per month with the therapist, to develop mental health tools to adjust to extreme heat in Chico, and other climate impacts. We partnered with UMatter to have resident “Wildcat Wellness Peers” on every floor of the dorms, that help their fellow residents deal with mental health issues. WW Peers also run the “Climate Cleanup Trips” that Adventure Outings organizes, taking the students out to the outdoor area Chico, to have fun while participating in remediation climate affected areas. The UHUB runs stress management events weekly, from group therapy on Mondays, “Puppies in the Plaza” on Thursdays, and “Destress Herbal Remedies” workshops on Fridays. Residents also come back and talk about how they dealt with mental health and the changing climate, and thrived at Chico State. Some are in leadership positions in programs and clubs on campus, some are in graduate programs, some have become faculty, and some have become leaders in the community.
Standing in the empty dorms, I am dumbfounded to how the University, and especially resident life has adapted to the changes is amazing. I am so proud of my staff, the new mental health additions to the halls, and especially the students. With money for adequate resources for mental health, from in resident life to on campus generally, students are more adjusted and prepared to deal with all of Chico (climate impacts, stress, new friends). I didn’t expect that with more mental health resources for climate change, there would also be higher GPAs, less binge-drinking, lower freshman dropout rates, more leadership involvement on campus, and a tighter-knit community. The climate is changing, and not always for the better, but resident life has amazingly rebounded and created a better community for students to thrive in.
-- Maggie Scarpa