SUNY Oswego students seek representation in counseling center

OSWEGO, N.Y. –  Students in the SUNY Oswego community have expressed that they are having a difficult time feeling comfortable to utilize the counseling services on campus because of lack of representation.  

SUNY Oswego was an early adopter of the Thriving Campus application, a program that bridges the gap between campus counseling services and local mental health and wellness service providers. Since the implementation of this program, there’s been constant services provided for students. 

“There isn’t much representation with people of color in the counseling services, even with my experience as an undergraduate student,” said Marquel Jeffries, former SUNY Oswego student and current assistant coordinator for diversity and inclusion at The Institute. 

Jeffries’ opinion is an accurate representation of many students’ feelings on campus. 

Many students desire to just walk into the counseling center comfortably and receive services, but many don’t even know where to start. Maria Manon, a fourth year student from the Bronx, being one of them. 

“I don’t even know how to access some of the resources we have available on campus, I know we do have accessibility to counseling, however, I just haven’t made the step to move forward with that decision,” Manon said. 

The James A. Triandiflou Institute for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Transformative Practice provides a powerful platform to expand SUNY Oswego’s ongoing anti-oppression work centered on creating and maintaining an inclusive, equitable community. 

In response to students concerns on lack of diversity within the counseling center, The Institute has collaborated with counseling services to encourage diversity and work with the department to learn how to interact respectfully with other social identities. 

“Although there may not be vast variety with race and ethnicity, I can say there is still diversity amongst mindsets,” Jeffries said. 

In response to the lack of diversity within the center, “I would like to have more representation from the black community because they will be able to understand where I’m coming from, more than somebody that hasn’t lived through my experiences and background,” Manon said.  

“A big reason why myself and my peers didn’t actively go to the counseling services especially in times of need, was because we didn’t feel like there was anyone that we can relate to or connect with,” said Jeffries. 

The Counseling Center has been actively looking for diverse applicants, but has found it difficult given the area our university is located. Lynn Braun, the newest director of Counseling Services here at SUNY Oswego, stated in an email, “Given the demographics of the communities around SUNY Oswego, it is often difficult to find therapists of color living in the area who are interested in applying.” 

Despite the Counseling Center actively looking for diverse employees, there has been a lack of effort targeting all populations of students regarding their services. 

Students have expressed they have little to no knowledge of the resources made available and this is a reflection of the counseling centers efforts of targeting certain communities. 

“It should be mandatory for the counseling center to come to the orgs because that’s our way to communicate with the community,” Manon said. 

SUNY Oswego administration is actively searching for ways to bring diversity forth within the counseling service for our students.