Board of Visitors discusses dramatic increase in CAPS visitors, NCAA scholarship money

CAPS director Tim Davis, athletic director Craig Littlepage present to committee

The Board of Visitors’ Student Affairs and Athletics Committee met Tuesday afternoon and discussed the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services and new Athletics developments.

Patricia Lampkin, the vice president and chief student affairs officer, said the administration is working to finalize an interim policy on sexual harassment and intimate partner violence following the Rolling Stone article and its fallout last semester.

"Student safety will remain a critical focus this spring," Lampkin said. The University is conducting Green Dot training on sexual assault prevention and awareness this week.

CAPS Director Tim Davis then told the Committee about the dramatic increase in demand CAPS has faced, up 93 percent from 2003. Davis said the issues young adults face are getting more severe, and CAPS is on pace for referring a record number of students for psychiatric hospitalization.

"Depression is up, stress is up," Davis said. "It appears that students are more accepting of the idea of reaching out."

Davis said the University remains at a high risk for student suicide, and students who know peers committed suicide are more likely to do so themselves.

"Everyone in this room is aware that we lost three students to suicide last fall," Davis said. “Our community remains at very elevated risk for more suicide."

As a silver lining, Davis said the rate of suicide is lower at the University than it is among college students nationally, but CAPS continues increased suicide prevention training.

Faculty are taking more of a role in student health. The University made faculty mandatory reporters when they hear about incidents of sexual assault starting this academic year, and Davis said 500 faculty have undergone suicide prevention training.

“Although all students will not come to CAPS, we can still help all students," Davis said. "Faculty need to slow down a little bit and notice opportunities for interaction with students."

Davis said college student brains are malleable, so they are responsive to counseling. He said 1,300 students said they would have dropped out of the University if not for counseling according to CAPS internal survey data.

"In an average year, we see about 9 percent of the [University] student body [per year]," Davis said. "[Females] account for 60 percent [of patients],” and the average length of counseling is four-and-half sessions, down from six previously.

Board member Stephen Long said CAPS may be in need of increased funding to meet future demand. Lampkin said CAPS is funded through the student fee as a part of Student Health. Davis did not make any firm request for a greater budget.

"Counseling services at a place like this are a [great] investment," Davis said.

University Athletic Director Craig Littlepage and his staff then discussed new NCAA rules for the big five athletic conferences, which includes the Atlantic Coast Conference. Those schools can now offer scholarship athletes some additional money for the full cost of college attendance, an amount up to $3,200 to $4,600 at the University. The additional money would cover travel to and from school and incidental expenses while there.

"[The cost would amount to] an additional 1.3 million dollars per year that would be added on to the [total] scholarship bill of the Virginia Athletics Foundation," Littlepage said.

The University needs to offer the additional scholarship to remain competitive, Littlepage said.

Other rule changes include allowing athletes to use future earnings to take out insurance for a career-ending injury, student athletes being permitted to vote at the NCAA convention and allowing schools to offer students four-year scholarships. Currently, colleges are only allowed to offer students one-year renewable scholarships (which are typically renewed by the University).

Littlepage said the NCAA would soon have to confront the issue of trust funds. A recent federal court decision allowed schools to set up trust funds for college athletes from which they can pull following the end of their college careers. The NCAA appealed the decision.

"We're getting into a gray area that looks, feels and sounds like pay for play for student athletes," Littlepage said.

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