What About my Headspace, Temple?

By Maryam Siddiqui

In January 2018, Temple Athletics was facing backlash for their alleged preferential treatment of student athletes because of a new, private lounge for athletes only. It is equipped with Xbox and Playstation gaming systems, unlimited coffee, and most notably: nap pods. It seems the department hasn’t learned. Two days ago, they took some serious heat on Twitter for partnering with Headspace to provide the app to student athletes and coaches.

Headspace is an app that provides guided meditation and mindfulness to users through narrated videos with calming animations, with sessions focused on a range of topics including de-stressing, focusing, and getting to sleep. The website describes the app as teaching users “the life-changing skills of meditation and mindfulness in just a few minutes a day.” 

While the app itself, along with a few courses, are free, the full library requires a paid subscription at $13 a month or about $96 for a year. There is also a student discount at about $10 annually. 

It is wonderful that student athletes have tools to maintain their mental health. Although many  imagine their lives as just zoning out in class and then throwing a ball around, their schedules are fairly demanding, as they juggle early morning trainings, practices, and games on top of regular coursework. They also have thousands of people watching and critiquing their performance. This stress and pressure can take a mental toll on athletes. 

But what about the rest of us? Colleges across the nation are facing a mental health crisis in their students, and Temple is no exception. Anxiety is the biggest concern among 42 percent of college students, followed by depression at 36 percent, the American Psychological Association reported. Students are subjected to immense academic and financial pressure, balancing a million due dates, part-time jobs to make rent, and more.

This is what drove the backlash. Students replying to the original tweet took issue with student athletes being given a resource while other students struggling with mental health are left with very little. Tuttleman Counseling Services, the university-wide mental health resource, is grossly understaffed. You can’t even think the words “Tuttleman Counseling” without a student telling you their experience of waiting weeks for an appointment. 

Rhiannon Rivas, one of the students who criticized the decision on Twitter, describes the situation as almost offensive to everyone else. 

“It’s like a slap in the face,” she said. “The people at Tuttleman Counseling are nice, but it’s so understaffed. A resource like this could really help students, even if they only just want to check it out.”

Sydney Lamoureux, another student who replied to the original tweet, doesn’t think the situation is fair.

“The students at Temple have been fighting for better mental health resources for years, and the school has been ignoring us,” she said, “We need to change.”

This likely isn’t an instance of Temple spending our tuition money on athletes as opposed to us. The athletics department has their own funds. They also have fairly generous donors with deep pockets, which is how last year’s lounge was made possible. 

This is an example of something Temple could do for us, but isn’t. With all its other projects, from Charles Library to the traffic jam-inducing renovations at Anderson and Gladfelter, I truly can’t imagine this is something beyond their budget. 

It shows how Temple continues to ignore the lack of mental health resources for the vast majority of students, even though they are clearly aware of the benefit certain tools can bring. The pride in the tweet especially indicates how oblivious the school is to how much of their student body is suffering and frustrated.

The tweet describes how providing the finest physical and mental health care is part of Temple’s mission. Are the thousands of other non-athlete students not part of that? Instead of the finest mental health care, are we supposed to get by on an underfunded, understaffed counseling center?

The university’s Twitter account, in response to the backlash, replied to the original tweet and explained that all Temple students can access the full app through iPods at the Resiliency Resource Center. 

While that’s a good step, it’s not accessible to everyone who needs it. 

“Most students would rather use it in the comfort of their own home,” Lamoureux said after learning about access at the center.

The Center is only open five hours a day, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students have packed schedules, and mental health crises tend to hit at later hours. Even if a student’s anxiety attack falls within the window, will they be able to just walk over to the center? The app was created “so more people could experience the benefits of meditation anytime, anywhere.” That includes beyond 3 p.m. on 1700 Broad St.