GLASSBORO — Students at Rowan University held a rally Monday to bring attention to what they believe to be a lack of campus mental health services after a 19-year-old art student died in a fall from the parking garage on Nov. 1.

Two students took their own lives in fall 2019 and another survived a fall in 2017.

Student Ryan Clare, 22, a fifth-year music composition major from Jackson, was part of a group that led a protest Monday regarding "inadequate service" from the Rowan Wellness Center which Clare said has been a problem for a long time.

"Rowan has been underfunding and understaffing the mental health aspects of its wellness center. Students have been protesting year after year with the only break seemingly being last year during the pandemic. Students have been complaining about it for the longest time," Clare told New Jersey 101.5.

Clare, who is also president of a group called Rowan Progressives, said he has spoken to people who work at the Wellness Center who cannot speak publicly for fear of losing their jobs.

"People I have spoken to within the Wellness Center agree they are understaffed, they need more space, they need more money," Clare said.

Rowan University football (Larry Levanti, Rowan University Athletics)

Rowan says it has reacted

The school issued a statement about the death highlighting 18 initiatives the school has implemented since the 2018-19 semester, including increases in staff at the Wellness Center with someone available to talk to online, on the phone or in person 24/7.

"Unfortunately, this most recent loss has led to inaccurate information being shared about resources on campus that are available to students in times of stress and throughout the year," the school said.

Clare said students are not seeing the effects of the services being offered and is not what students need and are asking for. The school seems more interested in buildings and statues, according to Clare.

"We need a school that genuinely seems to prioritize their mental health. It seems to be very secondary with a lot of how the school is operating with its big focus on innovation and expansion and yet not expanding its Wellness Center while putting up new buildings," Clare said.

The students involved in Monday's protest have presented a list of their demands for the university's Board of Trustees

  • Commit to building a second Wellness Center facility and expanding the
    diversity and availability of services.
  • Immediately double the amount of general and specialized mental health
    professionals at Rowan.
  • Dedicate funds towards investing in and innovating the quality of
    university mental healthcare.
  • Restructure the processes for providing care to students to remove
    unnecessary barriers to receiving help.
  • Improve academic accommodation accessibility to adequately include
    mental healthcare.
  • Commit to more transparency with the Rowan community about tragedies
    that befall our friends, peers, and professor

Rowan spokesman Joe Cardona said the Board of Trustees' next meeting is Dec. 8, at which time students can address the board in the open public session.

"In the meantime, our Dean of Students and other university leaders are meeting with the rally organizers, student government leaders and other interested parties to work together through the issues. Monday night’s 3-hour long SGA meeting was very productive," Cardona said.

Worry about the future

Clare said there are several issues that cause stress for college students.

"At the front of their mind is the debt they are going to be taking on and they'll have to pay back once they graduate. Job security and getting a job after they graduate," Clare said. "For a lot of students their futures are uncertain and that definitely weighs a lot on their minds.

If you feel you or someone you know may be in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, or the NJ Hopeline, 1-855-654-6735

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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