Linda Daniels, Psy.D. joined the team of staff psychologists at Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) this semester. In addition, Daniels will act as a CMHS liaison to the Africana Center, and work on issues of diversity and inclusion at the university.
At Tufts, Daniels said she hopes to get a better understanding of the issues facing students of color and to create an environment that de-stigmatizes those seeking help for mental health issues and concerns.
“As I fulfill my various roles at CMHS and the broader university community, I hope to serve as a role model for students who might be reluctant to seek mental health services,” Daniels wrote in an email to the Daily. “I also wish to foster a campus culture that does not stigmatize individuals with mental health needs.”
Daniels said that, as a Black woman, she can better understand the experiences of students of color than those who may not have had similar experiences.
“As a first-generation Black student myself, I ‘get it’ on a visceral level,” Daniels said. “My lived life as an African-American female in the United States (i.e. experience with micro and macro aggressions) is a shared experience between myself and other persons of color. Yet, while understanding the commonalities, I also respect the uniqueness of each person’s lived experience.”
Director of the Africana Center Katrina Moore said that Daniels will be working together with the Africana Center on developing workshops and training for students and staff.
“Since her arrival to Tufts, Dr. Daniels has extended her time and expertise to the Africana community in a variety of settings,” Moore said. “We are looking forward to building a strong relationship with Dr. Daniels as we work collectively to identify workshops and trainings that will address the concerns and needs of not only students of color but faculty and staff as well.”
Daniels explained that prior to her work at Tufts, she spent 20 years as a psychotherapist in private practice working with individuals, couples and groups — many of whom were people of color or members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Intersex (LGBTQI) community. According to Daniels, she worked at the Center for Multicultural Training in Psychology at the Boston University School of Medicine training psychologists and served as director of the People of African Descent Program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (MSPP), in addition to working in various other roles.
Daniels is also currently on the Board of Visitors at Fenway Community Health, a Boston-based medical and research organization that focuses on providing for the medical and behavioral health needs of the LGBTQI community, she said.
Her hiring comes after the Black-identifying student group #TheThreePercent issued a list of demands to the university in resistance to campus racism. The list of demands included one that asked the university to support the mental health of students of color in a more adequate way.
“We demand that Tufts be better prepared to address the mental health needs of Black students,” the second demand read.
The name #TheThreePercent refers to the percentage of Black students on campuses in Boston. According to an April 24, 2015 Boston Globe article, only three percent of students at Tufts, Boston University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern University are Black. The university’s diversity dashboard indicates that 3.9 percent of undergraduates enrolled in fall 2015 were Black/African American, according to the federal categorization method.
Last November, #TheThreePercent movement held a rally and publicly read its demands in during an on-campus march.
Other demands included an increase in the Black student and faculty population to 13 percent to mirror the percentage of Black people in the United States, an end to increased surveillance of predominantly Black events on campus and an an increase in the budget of the Africana Center, among several others.
“We, the Black students of Tufts University, united under the name #TheThreePercent, have come together to demand that Tufts address our treatment as second class citizens by the university,” a student at the November march was quoted as saying in a Nov. 18, 2015 Daily article. “The ‘Three Percent’ refers not only to our underrepresentation here as undergraduate students, but also to the same numerical underrepresentation that we have with Tufts faculty.”
The student added that the demands are not comprehensive, but reflect the voices of past students of color at Tufts.
“We have been silenced, forgotten, heard and ignored,” the student said.
Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Provost Mark Brimhall-Vargas said that when the demands were made, CMHS was already in the process of searching for a staff psychologist to address the needs of a more diverse population, and in the past has had psychologists of color and LGBTQI psychologists available.
Brimhall-Vargas said that he and Daniels will also be working on a project to identify and compile the resources that exist at Tufts for students who need monetary support.
“We are starting to bridge resources that exist at Tufts that provide support for first-generation students or students that have different financial capacity,” Brimhall-Vargas said. “My task to Linda in the coming year is to really do a mapping of the kinds of resources that exist…and figure out where is the right place to put all of this information … I’m talking everything from you arrive here and didn’t realize it snowed in Boston and need some new clothes, to the kinds of support to get medications or eye glasses, or the ability to get some funds to participate in intramural sports or whatever.”
Daniels said that the staff at CMHS is currently working to better address the needs of students of color.
“The entire CMHS staff is working together to be able to comprehensively address the mental health service needs of students of color, which will be informed by my work with the broader university community,” Daniels said. “As a result, we expect to see an increase in requests for mental health services at CMHS, and we are all committed to meet that demand.”
Director of CMHS Julie Ross, Ph.D., said that Daniels will be working both with individual students and with the university as a whole to improve Tufts’ ability to address the mental health needs of students of color.
“Here at Tufts, Dr. Daniels is working with students in individual counseling, serving as the CMHS liaison to the Africana [C]enter, and meeting regularly with students and staff of the center to get to know the community,” Ross wrote to the Daily in an email.
She explained that Daniels is also meeting with some of the Groups of Six centers and student groups on campus to better understand the experiences and needs of students of color at Tufts.
“Dr. Daniels is also working with administration on issues of diversity and inclusion on campus, including looking at the impact of socioeconomic status and financial need on the student experience,” Ross said.