Looking into the SWEB Office

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

What do we want to see from SWEB going forward?

We at the Technique recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Luoluo Hong, who serves as the Vice President for the Office of Student Engagement and Well-Being (SEWB), and is one of the most accessible administrators on campus. We wish to discuss the work of the SEWB  and what we would like to see in the future. We also wish to revisit the issue of student death notifications, the policy for which was drastically altered a few years ago.

There are a few notable new initiatives that the SEWB is currently instituting or will be in the near future. The first surrounds freedom of expression. These initiatives came in part due to HB1 being signed into law, which required compliance by Fall 2023. The bill mandated that outdoor, public areas have to be considered public in terms of speech as well. One question that the office is currently facing is the balancing act of when hate speech qualifies as free speech, versus when it does not.

The second issue of note is filling gaps in student services. There are close to 700 registered student organizations (RSOs) on campus. However, leaders often feel frustrated when trying to access information relating to the suite of resources available to student organizations. The office endeavors to centralize the services and information, and enact a cadre of professional staff advisors who can guide student leaders through these processes.

A third notable issue is, in the words of the office, “enrollment growth.” They emphasized their desire to spread the message that the Institute cannot build as fast as students can enroll, especially being in the heart of Atlanta with hefty regulations. They did however confirm the circulating news regarding new student housing opening up in Fall 2026. 

However, it seems remiss to avoid the main issue at hand: the Institute is over-enrolling, causing the issue in the first place. Further, it is not just housing that is being impacted. Students are struggling to get into classes, it is becoming more and more difficult to find study spaces on campus and off-campus housing is preying on students. While one may raise the opposition that Tech is required to comply with the University System of Georgia, this need to enroll more students surely did not arise as a surprise.

These are ongoing changes, but one very important change that was previously spearheaded by the Office of Student Engagement and Well-Being is the change in student death notifications. A few years ago, every student was notified of a death within Tech’s community, but the notification process is now conducted using a concentric circle model. This means that only affiliated people are notified, whether that is being in the same class, residence hall, major, etc. While originally skeptical of this method, we acknowledge that this change has had a positive impact on the mental health of students at the school, and it is a good measure. Some fear that this means Tech is hiding student deaths from students, but the Blow the Whistle ceremony at the end of the year honors the deaths publicly. Students are also invited to forward the email notifications as needed.One aspect of this concentric model that we have concerns about is we do feel this burdens the student or anyone notified, who then have to forward the information. It is better to overlap rather than underlap who is notified, especially because the Institute should take steps to ensure the circle is as comprehensive as possible.

One claim Dr. Hong expressed, that we on the editorial board did not agree with, is “Georgia Tech is not a mental health clinic.” While this may be true to an extent, the Institute is indubitably behind comparable schools with mental healthcare services. Other universities, such as University of Michigan and Brown University, have comprehensive opportunities with full therapy services and diverse counselors. Anecdotally, this campus is not happy; many students have grown tired or given up on accessing mental health services.

Overall, we feel that the Office of Student Engagement and Well-Being is doing good work that ought to be more publicized. It is the responsibility of the Institute to spread word of the office’s initiatives, and inform people of the positive change they are bringing to the campus. While there is a very long way to go, the Office of Student Engagement and Well-Being is making a good start.

The Consensus Opinion reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board of the Technique, but not necessarily the opinions of individual editors.