SGA President Chris Dickerson responds to counseling cuts
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SGA President Chris Dickerson responds to counseling cuts

Belmont University Student Government Association President Chris Dickerson said he “must respectfully disagree” with Belmont’s decision to eliminate nearly half the staff of Counseling Services.

“It’s not appropriate now, before finals, it’s not appropriate at the beginning of the year when new students are adjusting to this new life, it’s not appropriate ever.”

Dickerson’s email followed the Vision’s Thursday night report of the removal of three Counseling Services employees: former director Peg Leonard-Martin, former assistant director Georgia Alexander and former full-time therapist Adriel Johnson.

“It’s not fair to the staff of Counseling Services or the students of this university for three counselors and an office manager to be caring for almost 8,000 students.”

Dean of Students Jeffery Burgin told the Vision “we do not comment on personnel matters.”

Provost Dr. Thomas Burns told the Vision more information would be available once the necessary processes are completed. It is unclear how long those processes will take.

Dickerson said he talked personally with Burgin about the impact of the decision.

“I had the opportunity to sit with the dean of students and talk about the impact of a change in personnel – the impact on me, personally, and the impact on all clients of Counseling Services. Not every student is afforded that same luxury.” Dickerson wrote. “I, unfortunately, link this recent ’transition in personnel’ to a string of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ – or rather ‘here yesterday, gone today before anyone finds out’- transitions within the Division of Student Affairs.”

Dickerson, who has been known for his openness with the student body, was a client of Leonard-Martin’s himself.

“As one can imagine, being student body president can get stressful oftentimes, and a confidential space to get anything I needed off of my chest was found in Peg’s office,” Dickerson wrote. “You all think what I say and write publicly is unfiltered, you should’ve been a fly on the wall in that room.”

Dickerson was notified by Belmont via email that he would no longer be seeing Leonard-Martin. This email, which was sent out to all Counseling Services clients, was clarified to Dickerson by Burgin during one of their regular bi-weekly meetings Monday.

“An ongoing conversation that I have had with multiple members of administration is what I deem to be a lack of staffing in the Division of Student Affairs,” Dickerson wrote. “This includes Counseling Services, as well as Disability Services, Student Organizations and Activities, etc..”

Dickerson recalled asking administrators at the beginning of his term if there would be more staff members brought into the Division of Student Affairs.

“I was told then that, among all of the areas within the division, Counseling Services was staffed the most appropriately and a concerted effort had been made to make that area staffed to a capacity deemed adequate,” Dickerson wrote.

And to whether or not Dickerson believed the cuts were ultimately a good decision:

“Absolutely not.”

UPDATE: 

Belmont hires 3 counselors, according to Provost Dr. Thomas Burns. Click here for the full story update.

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