Wayne State Student Senate passed a resolution requiring senators to complete Mental Health First Aid Training at its in-person meeting Thursday.

The training will equip senators to address mental health issues in the campus community, said Treasurer Fatima Hammoud and School of Social Work Representative Rajan Varmon, the resolution's sponsors.

“There’s been some indication that training strengthens individuals’ comprehension and knowledge of mental health, conditioning a strong belief in assisting people with mental health issues, as well as improving the acceptance and positive attitudes about certain mental health illnesses and also trying to minimize the stigma that it entails,” Varmon said.

This training will serve as a significant resource, Hammoud said.

“While people also recognize physical health as very important, they fail to realize that mental and physical health are strongly intertwined,” she said.

Senators also presented updates on project groups and their initiatives.

Director of Government Affairs Harrison Cole said work on an urban farm behind St. Andrew’s Hall is expected to begin in spring 2022.

“That is going to seek to establish an urban garden on campus for research and other purposes, as well as maybe seeing a student organization able to rent a plot of land,” Cole said.

Parliamentarian Yousra Zouani presented an initiative to establish a Center for Assault Awareness, Resources and Prevention to address sexual assault on campus.

WSU students Mya Manning and Sheva Khaimov were also involved in this plan, Zouani said.

“It would be a center for Wayne State students that focuses on providing health and wellness resources, it will raise awareness for the community, and it will enact preventative resources and measures to decrease the prevalence of sexual assault,” she said.

Senators spoke with officials at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, who have similar centers, as well as Haven, an advocacy group, Zouani said.

The center would offer services such as a 24/7 crisis line, designated nurses, and required consent training, she said.

Senate has received support from the Title IX Office, faculty and student organizations on this initiative.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Representative Jeren Ghoujeghi is leading efforts to support students of Middle Eastern or North African descent.

“I wanted to just have an outlet for MENA students to have more representation and be able to push their success and their purpose,” Ghoujeghi said.

She said the lack of a MENA option in demographic surveys undercounts MENA students at WSU.

“(The Office of) Housing and Residential (Life), they don’t know how many Middle Eastern students they have, so when they’re training their RAs with diversity, equity and inclusion training, they don’t actually know how many students they have from that background to make training the most relevant for that,” she said.

Wilson said WSU seeks to include a MENA option for internal data, though it is not possible for federal data. The U.S. Census does not have a MENA category, instead characterizing individuals of MENA descent as white, The South End reported.

Ghoujeghi said she would like to see MENA options included more consistently on WSU demographic surveys. Wilson said WSU will continue working to support MENA students.

Ghoujeghi will meet with five MENA student organizations each semester, she said.

Senator at Large Amina Khalique provided an update on menstrual product dispensers on campus, which passed in April

Of three dispensers, one is currently operating in State Hall, Khalique said. Two others are expected to be installed in the Student Center and Undergraduate Library this week, following a temporary delay. The dispensers were returned and reordered due to unspecified issues.

A survey will be sent to students to get feedback on the dispensers, Khalique said. 

Senators are also seeking to expand the availability of contraception on campus through vending machines, Director of Community Affairs Mannat Bedi said. Currently, students can purchase a $5 condom club card to redeem contraception at the Campus Health Center.

“We found that some students may feel a little uncomfortable going and getting this from a specific person, so the idea was to have condoms and other contraception available in the vending machines on campus,” Bedi said.

President M. Roy Wilson and Provost Mark Kornbluh attended the meeting and provided updates.

Wilson said WSU is currently implementing Social Justice Action Committee recommendations, though some significant items are on hold as the university awaits a budget update. An update is expected on Tuesday.

He said WSU’s Black graduation rate increased by almost 10 percentage points within a year, marking significant progress.

Senator at Large Abe Ahmad provided a report from the Academic Restart Committee. 

He said 91% of students and 97% of faculty who will be on campus this semester are fully vaccinated. Dean of Students David Strauss said about 85% of staff who will be on campus this semester are fully vaccinated.

Out of 26,000 submitted vaccination documents, 1,241 exemptions were approved, Ahmad said.

“So I think it’s safe to say that we have a very healthy campus this semester,” he said.

Strauss addressed a recent incident on campus, which he said occurred without WSU’s permission and violated the university’s values. He encouraged students to avoid engaging with disruptive groups and to call WSU Police if necessary.

There have been several recent incidents of students refusing to follow WSU’s indoor mask mandate and violations are being enforced, Strauss said.

Wilson and Kornbluh said they will seek to support Senate in its initiatives.

Student Senate will hold its next meeting in Student Center Hilberry AB on Oct. 7.

Jenna Prestininzi is the editor-in-chief of The South End. She can be reached at editorinchieftse@gmail.com.

Cover photo by Quinn Banks, The South End's multimedia editor. He can be reached at multimediaeditortse@gmail.com.