By now, you’ve heard the big news. Gov. Ron DeSantis even made a trip to UF to make the announcement.
UF is now ranked seventh by U.S. News and World Report in its list of best public universities, moving up from its previously held spot at No. 8. However, as UF climbs the rankings of public universities, we want to remind students and faculty that this status is not the be-all and end-all of success, and the drive to continue to rise in rank shouldn’t mean compromising mental health.
While holding the “Top 10” title has a nice ring to it (and “Top 5” might make UF officials salivate), it still is just that: a title. This goal should not take priority over the well-being of students, faculty or Gainesville community members. High university rankings come with tangible benefits that are worth more than bragging rights over Florida State University. A little competition can help the UF community succeed in the future. DeSantis said during his speech at Emerson Hall on Monday that UF improving in ranking will bring business and an economic boom to the entire state of Florida. UF President Kent Fuchs said the distinction can increase faculty and student recruitment, provide new opportunities for university-sponsored philanthropy and prove that increased funding from the Florida’s state legislature has paid off.
But this focus becomes unhealthy when the goal turns into an obsession. Rather than focusing on bettering the lives of students, faculty and the community, the title seems to have become UF’s primary motivation, which leaves other pressing issues like diversity, equality, racial inequities, mental health and student safety on the backburner.
During National Suicide Prevention Month, it’s important for us to make sure that striving for Top 5 doesn’t mean jeopardizing mental health. While the university steps up in rank, mental health concerns increase as students and faculty feel the pressure associated with rising to the top. According to an Alligator article from Spring, more students are seeking mental health help from the Counseling and Wellness Center, which is partially attributed to an increase in more high-achieving students coming to UF. This doesn’t include the pressure put on faculty, new and old, to contribute to the rise in rank.
It’s always nice to see improvement, but at what cost?
Even if there weren’t a link between striving for Top 5 and strained mental health, UF should still prioritize access and awareness to mental health resources.
In June, Huixiang Chen, an international doctoral student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, died by suicide, noting academic pressures. An investigation linked to his academic advisor was later opened. His death, along with several others this year, was a horrible loss to the UF community.
Don’t get us wrong, UF’s No. 7 status is a big deal. In fact, it’s such a big deal, we put it on the front page of the newspaper! But even with all of UF’s achievements and accolades, students should be put first. Yes, that means putting their mental health first. That means taking sexual assault reports seriously. That means listening to the concerns of students of color. And also — while we’re at it — why can’t we figure out parking?
When you love something, you want the best for it. We want the best for UF and its students.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
The Editorial Board consists of Elizabeth Tubbs, Opinions Editor; Amanda Rosa, Editor-in Chief; Kelly Hayes, Digital Managing Editor; and Tranelle Maner, Engagement Managing Editor.