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ASM Hosts Virtual Town Hall on Student Wellbeing During COVID-19

Posted: 2020-04-22 09:11:02   Expiration: 2040-04-29 10:11:02

ASM Logo  Associated Students of Madison
  333 East Campus Mall, 4301 Student Activity Center, Madison, WI
  Website:   Phone: 608/265-4ASM   

ASM Hosts Virtual Town Hall on Student Wellbeing During COVID-19

On Wednesday, April 8 at 6:30 p.m. CT, the Associated Students of Madison hosted a virtual town hall to address student wellbeing in the areas of academics, health and finance. The event was hosted on Zoom. 

A variety of panelists were on hand: 

  • Steve Cramer, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning

  • Christina Olstad, Dean of Students

  • Jake Baggott, Associate Vice Chancellor and Executive Director of University Health Services

  • Andrea Lawson, Interim Director of Mental Health Services

  • Abby Diehl, Assistant Direct of Wellbeing, Recreation and Wellbeing

  • Lauren Klink, OFSA, Associate Director for Special Awards and Student Engagement

  • Justin Mumford, OFSA, Assistant Director for Student Engagement

All questions asked to the panelists were provided by students. They were collected prior to and during the event via a Google Form and off of Zoom.

Teaching and Learning:

How have professors been trying to change their teaching styles and regulate workload to make their classes more equitable (some classes have increased work while others have decreased)?

The answer to this question varies based on the difficulty of the classes. The administration has been working with faculty in different schools and colleges to regular their workload and find creative ways to be accessible to students. Most professors only started teaching online during this pandemic, so their teaching style might not be the best. However, the professors are now improving their online teaching skills and appreciate the students’ patience and  leniency. It is natural to add a greater course-load since there is less opportunity to work directly with students, but professors generally understand the struggles the students face outside of classes. They are trying to balance between helping the students and finishing the necessary curriculum. 

Instructional continuity website and support:  

What is the process for reporting inequity in courses with the transition to online learning?

The panelists suggested direct communication between instructors and students before reporting. Students should talk to their instructors to express their concerns and ask for changes. 

However, if students do not feel comfortable talking to the instructor or continue to see inequity after communication, they can email to report as such. The office will reply back within 48 hours and will forward the message to someone who can fix the issue.

Students can also go to the Dean’s office of their college directly if that course is in their college.

Mental Health Services (there has been a switch to tele-health): 

How has University Health Services (UHS) been working for continuity of care with limited access to UHS especially students off-campus? 

UHS has switched most operations to telephone consultations with some in-person appointments in operation after an initial call in. A lot of online telecommunications are underway for continuity of care for those away from campus. UHS would like to remind everyone that their online portal for health is secure. They are especially working to try to provide care for students who are in a family situation where they might not want confidentiality broken. 

How does this work for Mental Health specifically? 

Mental Health Services are continued over telecommunication and they initially reached out to students that have been to UHS for mental health continually or had appointments set up, but were unable to attend due to in-person appointments being canceled. Mental Health Services has already seen roughly a 200% increase of students reaching out compared to this time last year. Mental Health Services faces licensure laws for students out of state, but they are working with multiple universities to ensure care is provided for these students in a legal way. Mental Health is working to translate over to telecommunications to a more routine schedule now that students are settling down instead of crisis response.  

What does the switch to telecommunications do for wait times for mental health appointments? 

Students might have noticed a pause when everything switched in order to handle some crisis response, but this should be returning to normal. There should be an increased availability due to the switch to telecommunication. It will also be easier for students to get connected to a provider. Delivery of care is through a web book, and Mental Health Services is looking for feedback in order to refine the switch to telecommunication. 

What are additional services being offered to students?  

Dean of Students Christina Olstad is offering drop-in hours to address students' needs Monday through Friday 8:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. There are also drop-in chats that have a specific theme like Being at Home and Staying on Top of Work. There is also a place for students to report if they are concerned for other students and to help them get the resources they need. The Dean of Students office can also have a 1-on-1 chat between a student and faculty member if that is needed, along with connecting students to financial aid if in financial need.  

Dean of Students Website:

Student of Concern:  

UHS also has many remote health options such as SilverCloud and is working to develop a stress management webinar. Along with a self care portal called You.  

Remote Health: 


The Office of Student Financial Aid (OSFA) is also offering basic needs grants for components like food and security, health insurance, and housing. They also offer resource / success coaches to help students build plans to get through this troubling time. The OSFA is open to all students including ones that are out of state.

Recreation & Wellbeing:  

What do these programs look like virtually?

Programs are translated online when appropriate. Connection is vital for mental health, so Recreation & Wellbeing is doing its best to maintain this. Current programs are mostly free and include: E-sports (must register online), personal fitness trainers, guided meditation on Instagram (Wednesday), virtual social hours (Tuesday 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. CT and Wednesday 4:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. CT) and physical health on YouTube. 

Dean Olstad shared how her office is continuing to work to get people connected. There is a Student of Concern report form that can be filled out.

With regards to the opening of Nicholas Recreation Center, construction will still continue due to it being considered essential work. The timeline has slowed down due to COVID-19, as no completion date has been set. 

Student Jobs and Finances: 

What is the future of student income after the two-weeks’ income relief?    

The immediate income relief applies to any student who was working prior to the pandemic and is unable to work. These students will receive two payments of $130 through the end of April. This grant amount was decided by the average pay rate of student jobs on campus. Students who participate in Work-Study will receive income through the rest of the term for Work-Study.

There is currently a hiring freeze for all student jobs on campus because the university would like a chance to reset. They do not want to promise any student position that might not exist in the future. However, there is no reason to believe that once the pandemic is over, student employment opportunities will decrease. 

What are some other financial resources students can have access to?

Students can also apply to the Emergency Fund at the Office of Student Financial Aid at This fund is open to all students who have financial needs such as traveling, loss of income, food and living security, etc. This support is established primarily for spring semesters, and the office will direct you to other resources if needed. The fund will go into students' tuition accounts in the Student Center.

The Open Seat is also an available resource for students who are in need of food assistance in Madison. Students can order boxes and pick them up at a designated time. 

Other Questions:

What work is being done to hear student voices virtually when it comes to decision making?

Andrea Lawson shared that Mental Health Services at UHS is hearing concerns through Shared Governance committee members and other members within ASM.

Dean Olstad emphasized the ability for students to attend her open office hours. They can schedule a time at Additionally, Dean Olstad has participated in a number of town halls and meetings with student leaders.

Jake Baggot expressed a gratitude for shared governance continuing online and that is continuing to work across campus.

Lauren Klink spoke on her work across campus to maintain student involvement.

Steve Cramer shared that he is receiving information from Dean Olstad and engaging with students as needed.

Can graduate students receive refunds for segregated fees? If not, why? 

Many of the services in which segregated fees go to are still in place and available for use by students. 

UHS recognizes that not everyone is happy, but that they need the funding to continue their services to students during this time. Recreation & Wellbeing must pay its employees. Further, the Unions are still producing food and paying student employees.

It was emphasized by a number of panelists that funding is not going to nowhere. Rather, the appropriate parties are still doing their best to provide resources outside of physical buildings.

A graduate students working group has been formed to tackle segregated fees issues.

What does the future hold? What do we know about university operations in the summer and fall?

There are many unknowns in this area. University administration is actively planning for a number of scenarios. The most ideal situation is a return to campus, but a plan is being developed for online and other course options.

Jake Baggot said that UHS is continuing to look at public health information. He stated that the Madison community has done an excellent job flattening the curve and that it is important to continue these efforts. According to national levels, there will be a peak in COVID-19 cases in late April, although things could change in this regard. The Stay-At-Home order will likely be extended from Governor Evers, with a closure of summer programs and transfer to them being online. It is important to support friends an encourage social distancing.

Dran Olstad shared how conversation are continuing and evolving over a number of possible scenarios. Administration is exploring options if COVID-19 were to come back after the start of the fall semester on campus. Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) will be conducted virtually online to ensure the health of incoming students.

Lauren Klink stated that award grants could potentially go directly to segregated fees if needed. She said that students should reach out to financial aid if there are any changes to their families financial situations after already filling out FAFSA 2020-2021.

Thank you for participating in the ASM virtual town hall and for reading this. A special thank you to ASM Inclusion Ambassadors Brandon Springer and Crystal Zhao for assisting in the creation of this recap.



-- Associated Students of Madison: Matthew Mitnick