By Sage Kuhlman | March 17, 2021
UAlbany is at risk of losing valuable mental health assistance and ambulance services that are funded by the Student Association if students vote to make the mandatory student activity fee voluntary in the upcoming referendum.
Of the $2.73 million the Student Activity fee injects into the SA budget, Middle Earth, the Peer Assistance Program, and Five Quad, the emergency ambulance service, are among the clubs that received the highest portion of money given to student organizations this academic year.
Middle Earth is partially funded by the university, but a third of its funding comes from SA. A total of $78,093 is divided up for training, outreach, gender and sexuality month, general agency operations, telephone services, publications and salaries.
Cutting that funding could mean the complete elimination of the hotline and peer coaching services, Cimini explained.
While it is a resource for all students to use for their mental health, it also has benefits for the students working in the program. Students can work resume and skills-building jobs that include Hotline Assistance, Peer Wellness Coaching and Peer Wellness Ambassadors. These jobs also count for community service credits for degree requirements, which is explained on the Middle Earth website.
Currently, 130 students work at Middle Earth, a number that hasn’t declined despite the challenges of the pandemic, according to Cimini.
“We give our students a lot of attention when we accept them for training,” said Cimini, who is the Director of Behavioral Health and Applied Research as well as the psychologist who oversees all students working in the program. “We supervise them all the way through from day one until the day they graduate from the university.”
Their latest project, which started in April, consists of “reaching out to all the undergraduate students and checking in with them regarding how they’re doing in a remote space,” said Cimini. “We’ve made well over 10,000 calls so far.”
The project includes giving students referrals to offices should they need them for assistance.
“If the University were not to have students vote for the student activity fee to be mandatory,” Cimini said, “there would be a significant impact on the hotline, on peer coaching, on our educational programs which are vital as well, and in our ability to train as many students.”
Five Quad, which provides 24/7 emergency response coverage to UAlbany faculty, staff, and students as well as the surrounding community within a five mile radius, would also face severe cutbacks to services, according to Michael Jaromin, Executive Director of UAlbany Student Involvement.
The ambulance service received its $189,100 in funding from the Student Activity fee, as well as periodic donations from parents and alumni through the UAlbany Foundation.
The budget covers immunizations and physicals, medical supplies, office supplies, programs and special events, uniforms, conferences, maintenance, insurance, training, consulting, community outreach, capital replacement and the Five Quad stretcher company.
It also covers the expenses that go toward responding to an average of 800 calls per year and goes towards certifying the annual average of 80 student members in emergency medical technician classes, according to Jaromin.
The Student Activity Fee Referendum about the $110 fee is scheduled for a vote from March 18-25.