Letter from the editor: On the resumption of StudLife’s online publication
We have included a list of resources related to mental health below this short note.
This week, Student Life is resuming the publication of some stories online, our first articles since Friday, Feb. 11, when sophomore Orli Sheffey took her life.
We have been taking time over the past month and a half to grieve and to remember someone who inspired so many of us. Orli was a friend to so many and cared so deeply about creating a better world, both in general and on this newspaper. She reported on tough issues with drive, poise and empathy. She asked thoughtful questions more experienced editors on the paper had never considered and built trust with everyone she met. Orli was always the person reminding others to treat sources as human beings.
We have also been taking time to think about how we can make StudLife an organization that better supports its student staffers. Beyond being an incredibly sharp and empathetic journalist, Orli was also a staunch advocate for the mental health and well-being of the StudLife staff. She saw how the long, unpredictable, stressful hours for the paper drained her and other staffers (especially those on the news and design teams), making life at WashU more challenging without providing enough rewarding experiences. Orli wanted staffers to be able to better balance their dedication to the paper with the rest of their college experience.
Orli pushed the paper’s leadership to set better work-life boundaries. She also wanted to ensure that future staffers did not feel pressure in the way she had from some members of Washington University Student Media, Inc., the board of alumni and journalism professionals that controls the StudLife finances and selects the editor-in-chief. She wanted us to make it easier for students to prioritize themselves while doing important work they could be proud of.
Yet we did not do nearly enough to support Orli and act on her advocacy. At the end of the fall semester, she and the other senior news editor resigned. They wrote in an email to the news staff that the position in its current form had not been conducive to their well-being.
After the resignations, we restructured deadlines, added staffers to reduce the burden on some key positions and introduced ways for people to formally schedule time off for themselves. Orli told me in February that the changes seemed to be helping. But there is so much more that can be done.
I regret that during my tenure StudLife did not do more to achieve the goals that Orli sought. I wish we had done more to make StudLife a happier place. I also encourage you to read Orli’s mom’s essay to better understand the issues Orli was facing and the importance of recognizing and addressing mental health challenges.
My hope is that by publicly discussing Orli’s calls for change as I leave this role, I can make clear the need for continued focus on staff well-being moving forward.
Tomorrow, sophomore Julia Robbins will take over as StudLife editor-in-chief for the 2022-2023 year. Julia has played a very active role in our conversations over the last few weeks about how to better support staffers, so I am excited to see what she and her team do to create a better, more supportive newspaper and a better WashU community.
Student Life Editor-in-Chief 2021-2022
Behavioral Health Response (BHR) is a Missouri organization that provides crisis support, telephone counseling and mental health resources. They can be reached 24/7 at 1-314-469-6644.
The Steve Fund, an organization dedicated to the mental health and emotional well-being of students of color, has a 24/7 crisis text line that can be reached by texting STEVE to 741741.
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQIA+ individuals, can be reached by calling 1-866-488-7386, texting START to 678-678 or online.
The Dougy Center provides resources for young adults dealing with grief.
Uncle Joe’s is a confidential resource with student counselors trained to provide support for a variety of issues. Counselors are available by phone 24/7 at 314-935-5099 and in person during walk-in hours from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential support 24/7. They can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 or online.
Student Union has also developed a more in-depth list of mental health resources on and off campus.