Got a Minute?

by Brian Michael Foote

Given the community here on the Commons I sure many of you are already familiar with Aaron Swartz’s passing this weekend.  I don’t want to editorialize his death and I didn’t know him in any personal way.  I do, however, use many of the goods he produced for the digital community and cheered on his efforts to use this wonderful thing we call the internet toward what I always was felt was good.  His former attorney and colleague Lawrence Lessig wrote an eloquent piece about his friend and the terrible circumstances surrounding his death that I think reflects what many of us feel about it.  Alex Stamos wrote more pointedly about the prosecution’s efforts to ruin  Swartz and I also think his post deserves a serious read.   Aaron’s family and friends each wrote touching pieces about him personally and the enormous pressures he faced against both the government and his own depression.  The Electronic Freedom Foundation, BoingBoing, and online communities like Reddit (whose existence is largely indebted to Swartz) all spent some time publicly reflecting on his death, while other communities set to work protesting the circumstances they believe are largely responsible for his death.

How Swartz’s passing bears on larger issues such as JSTOR, Open Access, freedom and the Internet are things that everyone invested in those struggles are going to have to flesh out for themselves in the coming weeks and months.  For myself, if there’s anything immediately for me to take from it, it’s that the Commons community could do more to address the health of the university.  Though we all know this abstractly, it’s imperative to remember that depression is an illness.  In many cases depression can be treated.  Our university thrives on the energy and talent of many adjuncts and staff who may not have access to health insurance, making treating something that is often “easy” to dismiss like depression difficult.  Even for those in CUNY who do have access to health insurance and medical care, depression and other less obvious forms of illness (including stress) are easy to miss in friends in colleagues.

To that end I’ve created a wiki page “Health at CUNY” and if you have some time pitch in and share some links for your campus, neighborhood or even online.  My adviser from Hunter once told me that the only way to get around CUNY was to know who to talk to.  I’m certain there are tons of campus specific health resources that many of us have no idea about.  It’s a slow time of the year for the Commons so I hope to periodically revisit the page and remind folks to share it with newcomers.  Is there a gym in your neighborhood that gives a discount to educators?  Know of a yoga program that is free to CUNY staff at your campus? Anything for wellness is a fit for the page.  Does your school offer free counseling or rewards for quitting smoking?  Let us know about it.

Take care.