Cornell University

Mental Health at Cornell

Resources for student & campus well-being

Mental Health Review (MHR) Updates

Student does a handstand amid colorful balloons at "Cornell Lifted" event on the Arts Quad, clocktower in background
Image from "Cornell Lifted" Event: student does a handstand amid colorful balloons on the Arts Quad

Cornell's Mental Health Review (MHR)

Promoting the health and well-being of all students – undergraduate, graduate, and professional – is foundational for academic and life success. In Fall 2018, President Pollack announced that the university would engage in a comprehensive review of student mental health. In the the four years since that announcement, much work has been done – with oversight from the Executive Accountability Committee (EAC) – to examine, prioritize, and advance this initiative. This page summarizes campus updates and provides information about progress on the Mental Health Review, as well as information about our journey to become a health-promoting campus.

Updates by semester

Progress Updates are provided by members of the Executive Accountability Committee at the end of each academic semester (last update: December, 2021). Updates will include progress toward specific recommendations from the Final Report of the Mental Health Review (pdf) and also highlight specific milestones reached in the course of the semester. Questions about the MHR updates can be directed to mhrc@cornell.edu.

Spring 2022

Advancements are being being made across the university: within our Academic Policies and Practices, the Campus Community, and Clinical Services.

Academic Policies and Practices

  • The three working groups focused on the undergraduate experience (Advising; Academic Policies; Grading Policies) completed a year-long review of recommendations from the MHR Final Report and have drafted final reports.
    • The Advising Working Group final report included these key action items: (a) develop department advising plans; (b) clarify advising roles and expectations of faculty, staff advisors, and peers; (c) strengthen professional development for staff and faculty advisors; (d) adopt best practices, accountability, and recognition for advising excellence; (e) develop consistent learning outcomes for well-being in advising seminars and programs; (f) collaborate with Institutional Research and Planning to assess advising needs of vulnerable student populations; (g) offer both in-person and virtual advising to optimize flexibility for students; and (h) provide students clear guidance for communicating with faculty when missing class due to a short illness.
    • The Grading Policies Working Group collected input from students, faculty, staff, and peer institutions to inform thoughtful deliberations about a wide range of academic stressors that may be particularly detrimental for student mental health as well as about new or improved forms of academic support for students. Topics explored by the Grading Policies Working Group include: (a) instituting a S/U-type grading system for the first semester of the first year; (b) implementing an early warning “flagging” system to identify struggling students based on early graded assessments; (c) developing more academic support courses, especially for introductory classes; (d) increasing the number of courses that offer the S/U grading option; (e) strongly discouraging norm-referenced grading; (f) elevating assessment and grading policies as fundamental to teaching excellence; (g) discouraging curving down and overly difficult tests that result in low numerical exam scores, and improving transparency about grading practices; and (h) eliminating the grade of A+ (which is used inconsistently, thereby creating inequities).
    • The Academic Policies Working Group collected input from students, faculty, staff, and peer institutions to inform thoughtful deliberations about a wide range of academic stressors that may be particularly detrimental for student mental health as well as about new or improved forms of academic support for students. This group deliberated the merits of: (a) limiting the number of credits allowed for first-semester first-year students to 16 (or slightly higher for degrees that require a higher number of credits); (b) reducing the overall number of evening prelims by restricting them to large courses; (c) developing a university policy for resolving exam conflicts; (d) regularizing faculty discussions about pedagogy and assessments; (e) providing safety escorts for students walking home after evening prelims; and (f) requiring information about key course elements – such as the nature of graded assignments – to be available to students prior to pre-enrollment. Most of the recommendations need to be further vetted by the faculty senate and other governance structures before they could be adopted. In addition, some would necessitate significant investments in technology solutions and time before they could be implemented. 
  • OVPUE and College Associate Deans continue to collaborate on creating more standardized policies where possible to enhance transparency and equity (e.g., Honors, Course Withdrawal policy, etc.).
    Progress toward recommendations
  • The Graduate Advisor Feedback Task Force vetted their final report with the Graduate School, the Graduate School's General Committee, the Directors of Graduate Study, the Vice Provosts and Provost and all college deans. Key action items include the development of orientation materials, creation of a clearinghouse for resources, increasing faculty training around mentoring, anonymization of graduate student feedback on supervisor performance, and collecting graduate student feedback. Each graduate field will be asked to report annually on their progress in these areas. (A.1.6)
  • The Learning Strategies Center (LSC)’s lecturers and senior lecturers regularly engage in mental health training including Victim Advocates covering how to support students who may disclose about sexual violence or harassment, Cornell Wellness discussing self-care techniques, and the Skorton Center providing training about how to respond to students in distress. New instructors will attend Notice and Respond in Fall 2022 and returning instructors will be asked to take a refresher course. (A.2.1)
  • LSC instructors include a variety of information in their syllabi that demonstrate support for mental health, from a direct link to Cornell Health resources to statements encouraging help-seeking behaviors. (A.2.2)
  • In 2021, LSC collaborated with the Center for Teaching Innovation to develop a sample syllabus statement about seeking academic support that faculty across campus could use with the goal to share the message that many students pursue additional avenues to enhance their understanding of challenging course material, and many academic support options are available to Cornell students at no cost. (A.2.2)
  • In Fall 2021, LSC collaborated with the Center for Teaching Innovation to share information with faculty about the impacts of pandemic learning gaps on incoming students. The Dean of Faculty also shared information about the valuable skill of learning from mistakes and shared LSC resources available for students. (A.2.2)
  • The LSC engages in significant and visible collaboration across campus. We work closely with colleges and departments, OADI, IDP, CTI, the Library, Residential Life, the Tatkon Center, and Cornell Health, among others. (A.2.4)
  • In Fall 2020, the LSC launched a program to match students with study partners and communicated extensively with faculty about the academic and well-being benefits to students of working with peers. In its first year, the study partner program made 2,500 matches forming over 900 study groups. (A.3.3) 

Campus Community

  • The Asian and Asian American Center (A3C) CommUNITY Series is a program developed by A3C for APIDA students in the Cornell community to learn more about APIDA-related issues, particularly relating to the many identities that our community share, and to engage more meaningfully with their peers. The program enrolls 12-15 students and meets over the course of 5 weeks in the spring semester. As a result of the program, students were able to discuss and develop a critical understanding of identity, APIDA history, gender, mental health, class, immigration, disability, and more. (B.1, B.3, B.3.6)
  • The marketing and communications team continues to support these efforts through social and print media, events, and operation support. (B.1.1)
  • The Cornell Assessment Management Program (CAMP) at Cornell Retail Services will greatly reduce the stress of not having enough funds to purchase all academic materials on day one of classes. This work was completed during Spring 2022 and will become a reality in Fall 2022. (B.1.4)
  • Housing and Residence Life has also done a great job of intervention with students in distress and addressing bad behavior among student peers. The mandatory live-in requirement managed by the Housing team has also reduced the stress of "where am I going to live next year" among our youngest and most vulnerable students. (B.1.4)
  • The mandatory meal program in dining has greatly reduced if not eradicated most of the food insecurity on campus, but there is still work to be done for the off-campus students. (B.2.5)
  • Cornell Career Services strives to serve vulnerable populations and provide custom resources for their varied needs when it comes to career development. (B.1.4) 
  • The Law School has incorporated the Skorton Center's Thrive program into both online and in-person Orientation programming. Wellness and holistic mental and physical health are key topics at the required Faculty Panel during 1L Orientation. Additionally, student orgs receive additional funding and support from the Law Dean of Students Office for wellness initiatives (e.g., wellness raffles, create-your-own wellness kits, and Wellness Walks with the DOS). In fall 2021, the Law School participated in the National Survey of Law Student Wellbeing. (B.1.1, B.1.4, B.3.5)
  • In Fall 2021, the LSC participated in the university’s updated orientation program to discuss various aspects of making a successful transition to Cornell. (B.1.1)
  • Since the recommendations of the Mental Health Review, the department of Housing and Residential Life convened a task force to reevaluate the role of the Resident Advisor and the expectations of the role. This involved constituents from across the campus from Financial Aid, Faculty Living-Learning Programs, Skorton Center, Dean of Students Office, RAs, and full-time staff in Housing and Residential Life and West Campus. The group was charged with reviewing the responsibilities of the RA position in relation to the residential population and RAs serving in that role, and identifying ways to address concerns raised by the RAs regarding workload and related issues (remuneration and training). Since this review, the RA position has shifted to focus more on intentional interactions with individual residents and resource referral on campus for challenges in and out of the classroom, and not as much programming and clear communication that they not take on the sole responsibly for the transition or well-being of any resident. RAs have also been trained on secondary trauma and how to better care for themselves when students do disclose difficult situations, and how to immediately refer that resident to resources and take of themselves in caring roles. The 2022-23 remuneration for the RA position has also changed to address concerns of how the RA compensation was negatively affecting the RA's financial aid package. (B.1.2)
  • Learning Strategies Center successfully developed and launched a pilot program to help new students transition to Cornell and foster connections with other students before the start of the semester. Over the summer of 2021, 25 mentors met regularly over zoom with 362 students. Their discussions encompassed a wide range of topics including logistics of dorm life, pre-enroll, the weather in Ithaca, imposter syndrome, and belonging at Cornell. Students appreciated the program, and it will continue in 2022. (B.1.4)
  • Cornell Health's communication team works ongoingly to promote stress-reduction and resilience-building, activities and promote opportunities for to foster community/belonging. We do this in social media posts, media screen messages, newsletter contributions, fact sheets, bulletin boards, and through web platforms. Media screens and some social media are often designed for each season. (B.2)
  • We have advertised the Aetna fitness reimbursement for all students on the Student Health Plan (SHP). (B.2.2)
  • Implemented new Learn Where You Live Courses for Community Health and Wellness: Foundations for Healthy Living, Mindful Intercultural Communication Practices, Nature Rx, Optimizing Your First Year Experience: Queer Identities and Beyond and Foundations for Healthy Living. (B.2.4)
  • In collaboration with the Asian American Studies Program, the Asian and Asian American Center hosted a series of events called Boba Talk, a facilitated discussion about mental health and societal expectations within the Asian Pacific islander Desi American community in Cornell and beyond. (B.3, B.3.6)
  • Faculty-in-residence worked with their partners including faculty fellows, community fellows, residence hall directors, and resident advisors to focus some of their programmatic energies on supporting student’s well-being. Some of the offerings included Wellness Wednesdays, faculty dinners and the Balance Festival which was specifically designed to better educate equip students in addressing the common belief that you can choose to focus on only two of the three dimension of college- academic, social, health and well-being. (B.3)
  • An Exclusive Student Organization Workgroup was formed and has been benchmarking and what other campuses do to manage this issue. The workgroup is in the process of compiling a report with specific recommendations to be considered this upcoming academic year. (B.3.1)
  • Promoted Cornell Health's mental health services, as well as general well-being tips and information, through social media campaigns, flyers / bathroom stall readers distributed to all campus residential buildings, and email content for campus partners' e-newsletters. (C.1)
  • Cornell Health and SCL Communications is in the process of creating a comprehensive mental health communications plan to be integrated across SCL and university outlets, inclusive of editorial/storytelling opportunities, email messaging, social media messaging, other new media communications such as campus screens, etc. (C.1, C.1.1, C.1.3)
  • All LSC student staff, during the academic year as well as the summer bridge program, receive training regarding Cornell Health resources and how to support students in distress. EARS also provides training to the LSC student staff on effective listening. (C.1.3)
  • LSC regularly contributes material to the Undergraduate Parent/Family newsletter about academic support. We focus on normalizing the need for academic support, as well as practical information (e.g., what offices are, how to prepare for prelims, how to learn from graded work, finishing the semester strong). (C.1.4)
  • In summer 2021, the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives began serving as the staff Advisor for EARS (a byline-funded, volunteer student organization), transitioning advising from the Office of the Dean of Students. EARS has reimagined its services through a new model of peer mentoring, training, and outreach which involves meeting students “where they are,” building relationships, and integrating EARS-trained students into diverse communities on campus. EARS piloted this new model during the 2021-2022 academic year through offering EARS training, peer mentoring, Empathy Chair (i.e., training mini-series to student leaders), and workshops to the Cornell student community. (C.1.10)
  • Beginning in the Fall of 2021, the Care & Crisis Services Team (within the Dean of Students Office) implemented a new CARE Team protocol, including the utilization of a new student of concern referral form. The mission of the CARE Team is to promote the safety and well-being of the Cornell community. The CARE Team is a campus-wide team focused on identifying, assessing, and responding to concerns and/or disruptive behaviors by students, or who present a risk to the health or safety of the university or its members. (C.2)
  • Coordination of the Health Leave of Absence process moved to a permanent home in Student Disability Services in Fall 2021. In SDS, student record information is protected by FERPA, rather than HIPAA. (C.2.3.1)
  • The full-time Health Leaves Coordinator (HLC) position was established and written into Cornell Policy 7.1 Voluntary Leave of Absence for Students. The revised policy clarifies distinctions between personal and health leaves, addresses issues related to legal concerns and enrollment compliance, and outlines a consistent process for all health leaves. The HLC serves as a resource for students throughout the leave and return processes and is a central point of information and contact for campus partners. Also, a multi-disciplinary Health Leaves Advisory Group was established in Spring 2021. The group meets monthly to create community around HLOA, discuss concerns that arise, and provide input related to possible changes. The members of the HLOA Advisor Group are responsible for communicating updates back to their respective units. (C.2.3.2)
  • A review of the HLOA process was conducted by the Triple Aim Initiative in 2019-2020, and the results were used to design a new HLOA process that provides more support to students, consistency across colleges/schools/campuses, and assistance with navigating the HLOA process and university bureaucracy/resources. (C.2.3.3)
  • The Health Leaves Coordinator sends email communication to students at least twice each semester with information about the return from leave process and timeline. Students are encouraged to meet with the HLC when they are thinking about returning. Students are also required to meet with the HLC as part of the return process to discuss a holistic plan for their return. Following the meeting, the student receives a written plan that includes links to relevant campus resources. (C.2.3.4)
  • Students are encouraged to consult with SDS prior to requesting a health leave, and the HLC facilitates connection with Disability Access Consultants, as needed. Discussion of SDS accommodations is also part of the holistic planning meeting during the return process. A disability accommodation framework is also used for assessment of student’s fitness to return from health leave. With a new home in SDS, Health Leave of Absence is becoming more integrated into the work of SDS. (C.2.3.5)
  • During the 2021-2022 academic year, the victim advocacy team was expanded from two to three part-time advocates thanks to a dedicated campus partner’s willingness to add some victim advocacy responsibilities to her current work duties. Perdita Das-Humphrey, Assistant Dean at Hans Bethe House, completed campus training in fall 2021 and began taking advocacy cases in spring 2022. (C.2.4)
  • Survey data suggests students don’t always know where to turn for key services and advocacy around sexual violence prevention and support for victims/survivors. In spring 2022, the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives (SCHI) announced the newly named SHARE Office within the Skorton Center to manage the campus Victim Advocacy Program, and will also continue to provide sexual violence prevention initiatives (education, training, consultation, institutional leadership) for the Cornell community. Consolidating advocacy and training under the SHARE Office is a strategy already used at other Ivy + schools. SHARE is an easily-remembered acronym associated with advocacy, education, resources and confidential services related specifically to sexual violence and other forms of associated misconduct. At Cornell, SHARE has long-stood for “Sexual Harassment and Assault-Response and Education” with the University’s website serving as a clearinghouse of important information and resources for the Cornell community. Identifying a SHARE Office at Cornell Health is a logical extension of this already well-known resource. (C.2.4)

Clinical Services

  • CAPS implemented a new stepped-care model of clinical services in Fall 2021 to provide rapid access (within 48 hours) to initial brief Access Appointment which assesses students’ presenting concerns and relevant clinical factors and refers them to most appropriate service depending on their needs. (D.1.2)
  • CAPS expanded more clinical options including workshops, additional group offerings, additional medication management options, single-session counseling, and individual therapy (e.g., in-house CAPS therapists, telehealth services with Mantra therapists, expanded referral management). (D.1.2)
  • Let's Talk, in consultation with legal counsel, reconfigured its model to better reflect the informal consultation nature of the service, eschewing clinical documentation, to an outreach program regulated under FERPA. A demographic survey of Let's Talk users was conducted with 21 respondents: 40% identified as graduate or professional students, 25% identified as international and 76% identified as BIPOC. (D.1.8)
  • All CAPS clinical staff participated in Collaborative Assessment and Management of Suicidality (CAMS) training during summer 2022 as its annual professional development. CAMS is an evidence-based therapeutic framework for suicide-specific assessment and treatment of a patient’s suicidal risk. (D.1.12)

Fall 2021

Progress on Recommendations

Academic Policies and Practices

A number of the recommendations related to the academic environment are underway. Specifically:

  • An advising working group to address recommendations related to academic advising, such as clarifying the role of advisors across campus, training for advisors, implementing best practices, and assessing advising needs for vulnerable populations, to name a few, has been formed and began meeting in March 2021. Subgroups were formed to examine each of the recommendations in the charge. A draft report from this working group is due in the late fall semester. Stakeholders will be engaged for feedback in early spring 2022. Feedback will be incorporated in the draft and the recommendations will move into implementation phase. Timeline for each recommendation will vary based on feedback, coordination with University processes, and dependencies on other recommendations. (A.1.1.8, A.1.4, A.1.4.1, A.1.4.2, A.2.4, B.1.3, B.1.4, B.2.5.4, C.1.9, C.2.2).
  • A subgroup from the advising working group was formed to better understand how the Student of Concern notification tool is being used. There was an increased push for the faculty to submit Student of Concern forms in recent semesters, and the group analyzed spring 2021 usage of the tool. Based on this analysis and consultation with stakeholders, technical requirements gathering has begun and initial recommendations are due to the Advising Working Group in December 2021. Stakeholder outreach will occur in spring 2022, including exploring collaboration with the Dean of Students Office. Implementation plans will incorporate feedback from this outreach and a Statement of Need will be developed and submitted to CIT for the creation of a technical solution. (C.2.2, C.2.2.1, C.2.2.2, C.2.2.3, C.2.2.4, C.2.2.5)
  • The Graduate School is leading efforts to develop a Graduate Field Handbook for each field so that departments have documented, clear, and consistent standards for degree completion. As of October 15, 2021, 95% of fields have submitted a field handbook. The Graduate School is working toward 100% compliance. (A.1.6.2)
  • A Strategies for Graduate Student Feedback task force was formed to develop a process for graduate students to provide feedback about problematic advisors. Their work began this summer, deliberations concluded in late fall 2021 and the group has begun the process of preparing a final report. (A.1.6.3)
  • A Graduate School Advising/Mentoring Mutual Expectations working group has been formed to create a document outlining mutual expectations between advisors and advisees. The group began meeting in the fall 2021 and will conclude the semester with an in-person retreat. In early spring the group will meet with stakeholders to collect formative feedback from students, faculty, and staff. (A.1.6.4)
  • Training programs to develop mentoring skills are currently being developed. As a start, the graduate school deans participated in the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research train-the-trainer model. Discussions have begun to engage with the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. The approach will be to deliver training in small segments. (A.1.6.5)
  • The Graduate School has begun partnering with the Center for Teaching Innovation to make improvements to the International TA Program.
  • The Student Evaluation of Teaching Committee has been reconvened and co-chairs have been identified to work on making improvements to the course evaluation tool. A draft has been created and the Associate Deans group is currently reviewing it prior to it being distributed to faculty for additional feedback. CIT is also conducting an analysis to explore a new and improved tool to facilitate the course evaluation process. (A.1.3, A.1.1.6)
  • A grading policies working group has been formed to explore whether forced distribution grading (grading on a curve) should be discouraged or eliminated and whether pass/fail (or S/U) grading should be instituted for first semester, first-year students. The group began meeting bi-weekly in August 2021 and has continued to do so throughout the fall semester. The group has collected quantitative data, conducted an extensive literature review, and consulted with other universities that have implemented one or both of the practices under consideration or, in one case, discontinued a practice. During the latter part of the fall semester and January, the group is collecting qualitative data from both faculty and students; the Office of Institutional Research and Planning IRP is spearheading this effort with students. The working group will continue its bi-weekly meetings in the spring semester and a report from this group is expected by the end of the spring semester. (A.1.1.1, A.1.1.2)
  • An academic policies working group was formed to address a number of academic policies, including whether there should be a limit on the number of credits that students may take each semester; a policy prohibiting evening exams and improving exam scheduling to prevent students from having exam clusters; a university requirement that faculty make available to students during pre-enrollment certain components of course syllabi most important to students and feasible for faculty, such as information about course workload and assessments; and an expectation that departments “identify key stressors in the student experience and strategies to mitigate them,” including adding this review content to the self-study component of the Academic Program Review Process. The group began meeting bi-weekly at the start of the fall 2021 semester. During the first portion of the semester, the group worked with the Office of the University Registrar and the Office of Institutional Research and Planning (IRP) to collect relevant quantitative data. The latter part of the fall semester and January are dedicated to collecting qualitative data; IRP is spearheading this effort. The working group will continue its bi-weekly meetings in the spring semester and a report from this group is expected by the end of the spring semester. (A.1.1.4, A.1.5, A.1.1.7, A.1.2.3)
  • Faculty have received notifications each semester about the Mental Health Review report with reminders and/or suggestions to consider mental health and wellbeing in the classroom. This includes adherence to Faculty Senate Resolution 85, transparency of class policies, and making syllabi available during pre-enrollment. (A.1.1.3, A.1.1.5, A.1.1.7)
  • There has been an increase in the number of communications from university leadership that reminded faculty of campus well-being resources, as well as programs and services that support student learning. The Dean of the Faculty is regularly including content related to the student experience in communication to faculty. (A.1.1.1, A.1.1.2, A.1.2.1, A.1.2.3, A.2.4)
Campus Community
  • Cornell Minds Matter (CMM) is now advised by The Skorton Center for Health Initiatives. This student organization, as well as Reflect at Cornell, provide programming designed to support and enhance resilience, social connectedness, and mental health and well-being throughout the semester. CMM is also co-convening a Student Mental Health Collective co-led with leadership from the Body Positive Cornell student organization. (B.3.5)
  • EARS is now advised by The Skorton Center for Health Initiatives to help support its process of redesigning its peer support offerings to focus on “upstream” ways to promote student mental health and well-being through its trainings and outreach efforts. EARS began piloting its new model of peer mentoring during the fall 2021 semester. (C.1.10)
  • The Student Access Fund is now able to cover the cost of the Cornell Fitness Center Membership. (B.2.2)
  • A new Mental Health at Cornell website launched at the beginning of the Fall semester (August, 2021). The website was developed to serve as the university’s central, comprehensive mental health resource for students, staff, faculty, parents, and prospective students. (C.1.1)
  • Exclusive Student Organizations Working Group has been charged to explore existing application-based and other selective student organization practices, their effects on students’ mental health, and to recommend strategies for regulating these practices. The initial meeting of this working group (consisting of staff and student representatives) met in December 2021 and will continue its work throughout the Spring 2022 semester. (B.3.1)
Clinical Services
  • CAPS introduced a new service model that centers on helping students access care across a continuum of mental health concerns. This model has helped better match students to the right level of care within and outside CAPS based on students’ preferences and the clinical judgment of the counselor. (D.1.2)
  • New Community Liaison Positions help to ensure that we are connecting specifically to students in communities traditionally underserved by mental health services. Providers in these roles will also be the relationship centers, though not the sole treatment providers, for these communities with protected time in schedules to support their community engagement work. (D.1.8)
  • Let’s Talk has been refocused to better reflect the original purpose, providing access to students who would not normally seek out professional mental health services, rather than the more extensive service it became of providing overflow for an overrun individual counseling service in CAPS. Providers serving in this function are predominantly our community liaisons to assist with the relationship building they are doing through their outreach and helping students who face additional stigma due to historical marginalization see services as accessible to people like them. (D.1.8)

Spring 2021

Key Milestones
  • Requests for submissions of campus “Bright Spots” – Examples of good work already happening in support of mental health at Cornell were solicited via a web form. Links to the request form were available in several campus newsletters. The EAC received 30 Bright Spot submission from campus community members (students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, etc.) in spring 2021.
  • Community Engagement Opportunities – Members of the EAC conducted 16 campus community presentations to date, either to inform the audience of the report or as an opportunity for feedback. As noted in the Community Presentation Tracker, spring 2021 presentations include: two open student presentations, Cornell United Religious Work chaplains, ALERT Team, faculty and staff of the Coalition on Mental Health, student mental health leaders, and the College of Veterinary Medicine.
  • Published Appendices – The EAC elected not to publish the appendices of the Final Report during the October 2020 launch due to sensitive and identifying information. In spring 2021, the appendices were reviewed, deidentified, and made available on the Report page of the Mental Health Review website. View appendices.
  • Sophie’s Fund Perspective – On March 1, 2021, Scott and Susan MacLeod of the Sophie Fund sent their perspectives on the Mental Health Review Final Report to the Executive Accountability Committee.
Progress on Recommendations

Spring 2021 provided the opportunity for:

  • Engagement with key campus stakeholders (faculty, staff, and students) and groups in conversations related to the advancement of specific recommendations (e.g., Coalition on Mental Health)
  • Development of charges and formation of new task groups and committees that are foundational to implementation (e.g., new advising working group)
  • These efforts are critical in creating the “engine” to bring about meaningful and lasting change at Cornell.

As was true in Fall 2020, it is important to note that recommendation implementation is an iterative process. Recommendations will not simply be marked “done,” and checked off a list, but rather undergo ongoing review and continuous monitoring and improvement. See current progress notes, below:

Academic Policies and Practices

A number of the recommendations related to the academic environment are underway. Specifically:

  • An advising working group to address recommendations related to academic advising, such as clarifying the role of advisors across campus, training for advisors, implementing best practices, and assessing advising needs for vulnerable populations, to name a few, has been formed and began meeting in March. A report from this working group is due in late fall. (A.1.1.8, A.1.4, A.1.4.1, A.1.4.2, A.2.4, B.1.3, B.1.4, B.2.5.4, C.1.9, C.2.2)
  • A subgroup from the advising working group has been formed to better understand how the Student of Concern notification tool is being used. There was an increased push for the faculty to submit Student of Concern forms this semester and, this summer, the group will analyze spring usage of the tool. Technical requirements gathering has begun to create a more streamlined way of offering this service to faculty. (C.2.2, C.2.2.1, C.2.2.2, C.2.2.3, C.2.2.4, C.2.2.5)
  • The Graduate School is leading efforts to develop a Graduate Field Handbook for each field so that departments have documented, clear, and consistent standards for degree completion. Fields will complete their handbook by the start of fall 2021. (A.1.6.2)
  • A charge has been created and a task force is currently being formed to develop a strategy for graduate students to provide feedback. Their work will begin this summer with the outcome to be implemented by the end of fall 2021. (A.1.6.3)
  • A working group charge has been drafted to create a document outlining mutual expectations between advisors and advisees. This process will occur when graduate students select a committee chair. (A.1.6.4)
  • Training programs to develop mentoring skills are currently being developed. As a start, the graduate school deans are participating in the Center for the Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research train-the-trainer model. (A.1.6.5)
  • The Graduate School has begun partnering with the Center for Teaching Innovation to make improvements to the International TA Program.
  • The Student Evaluation of Teaching Committee has been reconvened and co-chairs have been identified to work on making improvements to the course evaluation tool. (A.1.3, A.1.1.6)
  • An academic policies working group has been formed to explore whether forced distribution grading (grading on a curve) should be eliminated and whether pass/fail (or S/U) grading should be instituted for first semester, first-year students. The group will meet before the end of the spring semester and the summer months will be used to gather relevant data. (A.1.1.1, A.1.1.2)
  • A second academic policies working group is being formed to address a number of academic policies, including whether there should be a limit on the number of credits that students may take each semester; a policy prohibiting evening exams and improving exam scheduling to prevent students from having exam clusters; a university requirement that faculty make available to students during pre-enrollment certain components of course syllabi most important to students and feasible for faculty, such as information about course workload and assessments; and an expectation that departments “identify key stressors in the student experience and strategies to mitigate them,” including adding this review content to the self-study component of the Academic Program Review Process. The group will begin meeting in the fall. (A.1.1.4, A.1.5, A.1.1.7, A.1.2.3)
  • This spring, a search is underway to fill the Director of Financial Aid and Student Employment position. An area of focus for the new director will be financial wellness. A search is also underway for the Associate Director of Student Employment, that role will focus on using student employment to create a sense of wellbeing, personal growth, and campus connection for students. (A.3.1, A.3.2)
  • Faculty have received notifications about the Mental Health Review report with reminders and/or suggestions to consider mental health and wellbeing in the classroom. This includes adherence to Faculty Senate Resolution 85, transparency of class policies, and making syllabi available during pre-enrollment. (A.1.1.3, A.1.1.5, A.1.1.7)
  • This spring, there was an increase in the number of communications from university leadership that reminded faculty of campus well-being resources, as well as, programs and services that support student learning. (A.1.1.1, A.1.1.2, A.1.2.1, A.1.2.3)
Campus Community

Within the Campus Community area, the challenges presented by the pandemic have accelerated progress on key recommendations. For example:

  • Cornell Health convened a meeting of undergraduate, graduate, and professional student leaders of organizations that share an interest in mental health. The meeting created a foundation for an ongoing alliance of student groups that work to promote student well-being. Leaders from each group will be invited to participate in the Coalition on Mental Health in Fall 2021. (B.3.5)
  • The Skorton Center for Health Initiatives became the new advisor for Cornell Minds Matter. This organization, as well as Reflect at Cornell, provided programming designed to support and enhance resilience, social connectedness, and mental health throughout the semester. (B.3.5)
  • Campus Activities provided a series of workshops for students on a variety of resilience-related topics including financial well-being, leadership, and diversity and inclusion. Campus Activities also encouraged co-sponsorship among student organizations to contribute toward Campus Activities-led events. (B.3.5.1)
  • Dean of Students staff provided programming related to mindfulness, social connection, and healing from trauma, as well as spaces to process current events and campus community losses throughout the spring semester for communities who hold identities that have been marginalized. (B.1.4)
  • Cornell Recreational Services and Cornell Outdoor Education provided alternatives to in-person fitness activities on campus including free weekly Yoga and Zumba virtual fitness classes, free lap swimming, free pre-recorded exercise videos, as well as free outdoor physically-distanced offerings including canoeing on Beebe Lake and tree climbing on the arts quad. (B.2.2)
  • With leadership from New Student Programs, a committee will be charged for the 2021-2022 academic year to examine and implement recommendations related to undergraduate Orientation for August 2022. (B.1.1., B.1.1.1, B.1.1.2, B.1.1.3, B1.1.4, B.1.1.5, B.1.1.6, C.1.3, C.1.4, C.1.5)
  • A new. short-term, webpage [scl.cornell.edu/supportingmentalhealth] was developed to provide guidance to faculty, staff, and TAs about how to support student mental health, and the link was disseminated to all faculty members. (C.2.1)
  • The role of advising the student organization EARS transitioned from the Office of the Dean of Students to the Skorton Center for Health Initiatives. EARS began a process of redesigning its peer support offerings to focus on “upstream” ways to promote student mental health and well-being through its training and outreach efforts. (C.1.10)
Clinical Services

Key recommendations related to clinical services are underway, including:

  • Cornell Health initiated a workgroup to review our current patient advocacy policies and processes with the goal of making recommendations such as: staffing and representation, standardizing engagement with concerned parties and follow up with staff/supervisors, training for those in the role, and processes for identifying opportunities for system improvement. (D.1.3)
  • Cornell Health CAPS has updated training for staff and streamlined risk documentation in notes to continue to advance an evidenced based approach for managing the care of individuals experiencing suicidality. (D.1.5)
  • Cornell Health CAPS has continued to review student experiences related to the new service model including monthly satisfaction surveys to current clients. (D.1.6)
  • Cornell Health CAPS has integrated professional development trainings into monthly staff meetings and biannual retreats that have included this past semester risk management and documentation as well as multicultural competency. These topics along with others critical to college health will also be evaluated individually with supervisors and goals created for professional development with each supervisee as part of the annual performance dialogue. (D.1.12)

Fall 2020

Key Milestones
  • Launch of the MHR Report: The MHR Final Report launched October 22, 2020. A Cornell Chronicle article launched with the report and was followed by a Cornell Daily Sun article.
  • Committee seeks input on student mental health priorities (Cornell Chronicle, 10/22/20)
  • Mental Health Review Finds Widespread Issues in Cornell’s Competitive Academic and Social Environments (Cornell Daily Sun, 10/23/20)
  • Engagement of EAC: An Executive Accountability Committee (EAC) was established to guide next steps.
  • Community Feedback Survey: The launch of the report was coupled with a Community Feedback Survey, administered via Qualtrics. The survey offered opportunity for respondents to provide feedback on recommendation prioritization and shed light on the crises students have faced in the months since the report was completed. The EAC received 990 responses. These responses have been used to inform recommendation planning.
  • Community Engagement Presentations: Members of the EAC conducted nine presentations to the campus community throughout fall 2020 including: Board of Trustees Committee on Student Life, Cornell Health, SCL Undergraduate Student Leadership Council, SCL Division leadership Team, Institutional Risk Council, ILR Faculty, Professional Academic Advising Leaders (PAAL) as well as two open presentation to students. These presentations served as opportunities to inform campus community members of the report and for feedback.
  • Recommendation Planning: The EAC began to organize, project timelines, and set dependencies for the 131 recommendations within the Final Report. The results of the Community Feedback Survey and the suggested timeframes (immediate, intermediate, and aspirational) outlined in the Final Report were incorporated in this process. The Community Feedback Survey was particularly valuable in viewing recommendations through the lens of current experiences, including the COVID-19 pandemic, economic downturn, and the most recent national reckonings related to racial injustice, which preceded the Mental Health Review.
Progress on Recommendations

It is important to note that recommendation implementation is an iterative process. Recommendations will not simply be marked “done,” and checked off a list, but rather undergo ongoing review and continuous monitoring and improvement.

Academic Policies and Practices

A number of the recommendations related to the academic environment are underway. Specifically:

  • Faculty have received notifications about the Mental Health Review report with reminders and/or suggestions to consider mental health and wellbeing in the classroom. This includes adherence to Faculty Senate Resolution 85, transparency of class policies, and making syllabi available during pre-enrollment. (A.1.1.3, A.1.1.5, A.1.1.7)
  • Communications from university leadership have also reminded faculty of campus well-being resources, as well as, programs and services that support student learning. In addition, the formation of a committee to study a number of academic policies, such as grading and scheduling of prelims, is underway (A.1.1.1, A.1.1.2, A.1.2.1, A.1.2.3) and the Student Evaluation of Teaching Committee will convene this spring to continue discussions related to course evaluations. (A.1.3, A.1.1.6)
  • The Graduate School has begun working on recommendations specific to graduate students such as, setting clear expectations for degree completion and advisor/advisee relationships, and advancing efforts to support positive mentor/mentee relationships (A.1.6.2, A.1.6.3, A.1.6.4, A.1.6.5).
  • A working group to address recommendations related to academic advising, which will include clarifying the role of advisors across campus, training for advisors, strengthening best practices, and assessing advising needs for vulnerable populations, to name a few, is being formed in March. (A.1.1.8, A.1.4, A.1.4.1, A.1.4.2, A.2.4, B.1.4, B.2.5.4, C.1.9)
  • This spring a usage study will be launched to better understand how the Student of Concern tool is being used and technical requirements gathering will begin to explore a more streamlined way of offering this service to faculty. (C.2.2, C.2.2.1, C.2.2.2, C.2.2.3, C.2.2.4, C.2.2.5)
Campus Community

Within the Campus Community area, the challenges presented by the pandemic have accelerated progress on key recommendations. For example:

  • The Skorton Center for Health Initiatives is curating a set of wellness events (B.2.1.2) through weekly distribution of the Quaranzine.
  • Cornell Recreational Services and Cornell Outdoor Education have developed alternatives to in-person fitness activities on campus (B.2.2.2) including virtual and outdoor physically distanced offerings.
  • Multiple student support offices have offered more flexibility (B.2.5.4) for meeting with students through remote access.
  • The university has developed mechanisms for students to update their local address and emergency contact information on an annual basis. (C.2.5)
  • In addition, efforts to accelerate improvements to the student experience of the Health Leave of Absence (HLOA) Process (C.2.3) have resulted in major changes to that system, including the creation of a dedicated office to assist students.
Clinical Services

Key recommendations related to clinical services are underway, including:

  • Over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year, Cornell Health’s primary care team advanced psychotropic prescribing initiatives including trainings for prescribers, adjustments to clinical workflows, and utilization of measurement informed care measures in order to expand access to psychotropic medications for Cornell students. (D.1.1.1, D.1.1.4)
  • In the spring of 2020, Cornell Health CAPS launched a fully-remote, telemental health service model in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. This included individual and group clinical services as well as a variety of nonclinical educational and consultative offerings. Although driven by public health necessity, CAPS anticipates using the learnings from this year to inform future efforts to maintain this medium in some capacity as a way to offer improved access to mental health care to our students. (B.2.5.5)
  • In the 2020-2021 academic year, Cornell Health CAPS spent time looking at our protocols around suicide risk assessment and documentation, updating our templates and workflows, as well as providing staff with updates on current trends in the field. This will continue to be an area of annual of attention given the prevalence of suicidality in our population and the importance of keeping current with evidenced based practices in this area. (D.1.5.1, D.1.5.2, D.1.12.1)
  • High priority for attention in the coming months will include a focus on assessing the new service delivery model in CAPS (D.1.6), along with a more general overview of the scope of care CAPS is able to offer. This is a necessary step and many other items in the review are dependent on this determination.
  • A review and refinement of the current patient advocate process will also begin in Spring 2021, ensuring that students and other stakeholders have avenues to give Cornell Health feedback about the services provided. (D.1.3)

Key contacts

Executive Accountability Committee 

Cornell's Executive Accountability Committee provides oversight for advancement of campus mental health and well-being, including specific recommendations within the Mental Health Review. It is comprised of Executive Sponsors and Change Leads.* 

Executive Sponsors

Kathryn Boor
Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education

Ryan Lombardi
Vice President for Student & Campus Life

Lisa Nishii
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Change Leads 

Julie Edwards
Director, Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Cornell Health
Campus Community Co-Change Lead

Kara Lombardi
Assistant Dean for Student Experience and Wellbeing, ILR
Academic Change Lead

Laura Santacrose
Assistant Director, Skorton Center for Health Initiatives at Cornell Health
Campus Community Co-Change Lead

Catherine Thrasher Carroll
Mental Health Promotion Program Director
Campus Community Co-Change Lead

*Staffing for MHR leadership / accountability will change over time. Updates will be reflected on this site.

General inquiries

Questions or comments related to the Mental Health Review can be directed to mhrc@cornell.edu.

Campus communications