The Vermont Cynic

Hudziak talks WE progress, concerns

Kassondra Little, Staff Writer

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After a public forum with the director of the Wellness Environment, SGA president Chris Petrillo says his questions remain unanswered.

Wellness Environment founder Dr. Jim Hudziak addressed SGA during public forum at the Nov. 7 meeting to give a “WE update” and to the answer questions from the SGA senators.

SGA invited Hudziak to speak “to provide forum for him to give information to students,” Petrillo said.

Petrillo, who was not permitted to ask questions as SGA president, raised concerns about due process in WE and the safety of students in the program, particularly whether students are getting a fair trial if they violate the WE Code.

The Wellness Environment, which began with only 100 participants, Hudziak said, was a pure experiment.

WE uses “neuroscience inspired, incentivized-based behavioral change program” in an effort to increase freshman retention and decrease rates of alcohol and drug violations, property damage and assaults.

Most young people are really interested in mindfulness, Hudziak said.

“Fitness was number two, nutrition was number three and ‘WE relate’ (a new pillar added this year centered around building relationships and mentorship, according to the website) is a far fourth,” he said, in response to a question from senior Public Relations Committee Chair Heather Scott as to what pillars are appealing to students.

Hudziak said that after WE’s first year, the program expanded from 100 people to 480.

Now in its third year, WE includes 1,167 students, 848 of which are first-year students and 109 are varsity athletes, he said.

In the future of WE, there is a rising program called Forever WE for students who “age out” of the program.

Forever WE will be centered around continuing to support WE-based relationships with a Facebook page. It will also allow the older students to keep their fitness pass and ability to attend WE fitness classes, Hudziak said.

Hudziak said that students in WE are responsible for maintaining an alcohol and drug free living environment.

Sen. Foley and Sen. Reilly both expressed concerns about WE.

Reilly said that he was concerned people were putting themselves in danger while under the influence due because of fear of being caught if they return to their WE rooms.

Foley said that his friends feel that people join WE without the full intent of participating and abiding by the pillars.  

He was worried that this may jeopardize the integrity of the program and the experience for those in it.

This year, the Wellness Environment initiated a WE bank, a method of incentivizing behavioral change, he said.

According to the Wellness Environment website, students earn “WE coins” for logging a workout, going to the gym, attending WE pillar events, attending mindfulness/yoga class and other activities.

These coins can then be used towards WE-branded apparel.

Sen. Patel asked Hudziak about partnerships that WE has developed with other on-campus organizations.

Hudziak said that their partnerships are exhibited through events like WE Has Talent, which takes place on the night of Naked Bike Ride.

The event is in response to the statistics about the Naked Bike Ride Event, which has the highest rates of intoxication and assault, he said.

Hudziak said that “if I could stop just one assault, I would do it; if I could stop many, indirectly, by having people not taking off their clothes, getting drunk and riding bicycles… last year, we had 500 people come to WE Has Talent.”

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Hudziak talks WE progress, concerns