According to Senior Vice Provost of Student Affairs and Dean of Students John T. Kirkpatrick, the resignation of five members of the UNH Counseling Center, three staff psychologists and two associate directors had no coordination with his decision to temporarily suspend the mandatory assessment trans students need before beginning hormone replacement therapy treatment (HRT) last semester, as reported by the Union Leader
In Kirkpatrick’s view, change is needed in the UNH Counseling Center’s practices and policies in order to meet the increased demand for its services. Though the influx of resignations occurred during the time of his controversial decision, he assures these departures were due to employees feeling that their views did not align with the future practices in the counseling center and not due to the suspension.
“The students were angry at me,” Kirkpatrick said. “But I have an obligation to make sure that everyone is well and safe and healthy. So it wasn’t a popular decision, but it was a necessary one in my view to make sure our UNH students are safe.”
The decision to require World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) certification before a psychologist can assess a transgender individual for their readiness for HRT is one of many changes the counseling center is undergoing after its previous director, Dr. David Cross, left and Kirkpatrick absorbed his responsibilities. Though it is not a national standard, Kirkpatrick and the Interim Director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Joan Glutting, both said that they believe it is necessary. Due to these feelings, the assessment aspect of treatment at UNH was temporarily suspended in the fall until a clinician could be properly trained.
“Being able to assess for readiness for hormone treatment for our transgender clients is a sub-specialty and it requires special training,” Glutting said.
The university has paid to train one clinician, Dr. Sean Moundas, in WPATH. One other member of the counseling staff has received the certification, but not at the university’s expense. According to Kirkpatrick, it cost around $4,000 in total for the four-day training process that took place in Washington, D.C., which includes the necessary lodging and travel expenses.
Vice president of TransUNH, Safe Zones coordinator and UNH senior Charlie Durkin does not believe two clinicians is an adequate amount. He thinks that, moving forward, the relationship between the students and those making decisions about the Counseling Center needs to be more transparent.
“I want to hear is that something is wrong, because something is wrong for that many people to be leaving,” Durkin said. “So that’s what makes me nervous about there only being two [people] who can write the letters. Who knows how long they will be there.”
During the time the assessment services were suspended, hormone therapy was not interrupted and a service was provided for students needing assessment to receive the therapy in Boston. Kirkpatrick noted that, at any given time, the counseling center is working on two or three cases and writes around six letters for HRT in a given 12 month period.
“I couldn’t tell you what the true incidence and prevalence of that [HRT and assessment] is, but at any one point so far we are dealing with two or three active cases,” Kirkpatrick said.
Among the changes within the counseling center are the implementation of evening hours that better fit studens’ schedules and on call hours so a clinician, not a hall director or police, can make the decision if a student needs to be transported to the hospital. Kirkpatrick also plans on diversifying the counseling center’s staff as to better represent the population it serves.