Resignation of CAPS Director Awakens Student Concern of FSU Administration’s “Seriousness”
On Monday, Nov. 7, Dr. Shawn Golden-Llewellyn resigned as Director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) . In response to her resignation, students have assembled in order to address problems they feel lie with the “degree of seriousness” the FSU administration has towards CAPS.
Tiffany Arnett, a recent graduate in who majored in history, is currently working for her second degree in English, and has started a conversation engaging at least 15 students and a handful of faculty members in support.
Arnett claims that appropriate consideration has not been given to counseling services, personnel, or facilities by the Frostburg administration. As a result, Arnett posits, actions towards strengthening services at CAPS have been delayed in response to an apparent lack of priority for the center.
In an effort to bring attention to student concern at CAPS, Arnett wrote letters informing the administration of why she was seeking help at CAPS, along with its importance and the problems that need to be fixed. She personally delivered a letter to each of Frostburg’s six administrators; only two administrators replied to Arnett’s message, with one stating that it beyond the scope of his office.
Arnett has been reaching out to students and encouraging others to write their own letters and share their own stories to bring more awareness to the importance of CAPS. She has been trying to involve student organizations in her conversation as well, including the Student Government Organization (SGA) and Spectrum. There is also a possibility of Arnett organizing a sit-in at one of the board meetings.
All in all, Arnett emphasizes, CAPS has lost a great counselor who has offered valuable and personal services to the students of Frostburg State University. It is worth noting that Golden-Llewellyn has taken steps to try to find solutions for Arnett’s, and others’, many concerns.
A prevailing issue appears to be that for the past two years, CAPS has had an unfilled staff vacancy. According to Arnett, Golden-Llewellyn had been trying to persuade board members and supervisors of the importance in filling that position. At one point, at a board meeting, she even had all of the counselors share stories of students they had helped without releasing names in order to display why the need of more help was a necessity.
This spring, in her last effort to show the importance of filling that open vacancy, Golden-Llewellyn had students fill out hand-written surveys to show the board the significance of the services CAPS offers. Over the summer, there was an approval for that vacancy to be filled, but it was then frozen until just recently.
Arnett has been informed by SGA President Nicholas DeMichele, with whom she shared her concerns, that vacancies in counseling staff will now be treated in the same manner that open positions for campus polices officers are. This means that open positions will need to be filled by a certain deadline to prevent lengthy absences in light of these position’s importance to student safety. Emails from Dr. Tom Bowling, Vice President of Student Affairs, confirm this report.
Regardless of the current hiring process for the vacancy, the last two years have seen a waiting list manifest at CAPS under which students must be prioritized based off of their needs. Occasionally, some students are even referred out to the community as there is not enough manpower for CAPS to see all that come to their doors. It is worth noting that the counseling center is not equipped to handle all mental health matters and some students are referred to specialists trained to assist in specific situations.
Currently, with Golden-Llewellyn leaving, there are only three full-time counselors at CAPS to serve a campus of 5,756 students; this equates to one counselor for every 1,439 students. There are two interns employed at CAPS, however, and although these interns are qualified doctoral-level counselors, their internships are supervised internships. Therefore, a counselor is needed to supervise their sessions, effectively canceling out their potential share of the work load.
Lawrence Lavalle, a junior at FSU majoring in English, commented, “Every year it seems like it’s getting harder to get [an appointment]. Last year, I was able to get an appointment every week and now I can only get an appointment every two weeks and it seems like in certain situations I can’t get the help that I want and need.”
Vice President Bowling responded to the concern of the student to counselor ratio by mentioning via email that the International Association of Counseling Center (IACC) standards calls for a minimum “of one FTE professional staff (excluding trainees) for every 1,000 – 1,500 students.” Bowling conceded that this number was barely accomplished by the institution.
Many students have also been concerned as to whether the resignation of Golden-Llewellyn will impact the university’s ongoing Title IX assessment and progress. According to Bowling, it is not a requirement to have a counselor uniquely qualified in sexual assault; however, specific sexual assault training will be a quality favored when choosing a candidate for Golden-Llewellyn’s replacement.
Dr. Kevin Simonson has been appointed Acting Director of CAPS, and Pat Deasy, a retiree after 40 years of service, has agreed to return temporarily on a part-time basis at CAPS. Deasy will be working 15 hours to help with acquired waiting lists. He will be here for the Spring 2017 semester. In the event of the open counselor position not being filled in the spring, Deasy will remain for the year.
Deasy’s return does not, however, bring CAPS back to fully-operational status when Golden-Llewellyn’s departure is considered. It has been announced that there is a nationwide immediate search for the directorship, but no exact deadline or timeframe to when Golden-Llewellyn’s position will be filled has been announced.
Tiffany Arnett invites concerned students and staff to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue this conversation. To learn more about Frostburg’s Counseling and Psychological Center, visit http://www.frostburg.edu/counsel/.