Counseling director Taffie Bucci resigns


Photo by Jared Murphy

Taffie Bucci, Director of Counseling Services, working in her office on the 5th floor of Lawrence Hall.

Written By Matt Petras

Effective Feb. 1, Taffie Bucci will resign as director of counseling services, citing her belief that the department is understaffed, originally revealed in December PublicSource reporting.

“I’ll really miss the students,” Bucci told The Globe in her office Friday.

The university has yet to choose a replacement director following Bucci’s upcoming exit, but a counselor will step in starting Feb. 5, leaving the possibility for a “small disruption,” according to Dean of Students Keith Paylo. This temporary counselor will be contracted out and start part-time before “quickly” moving to full-time, according to university spokesman Lou Corsaro.

PublicSource explored how Pittsburgh-area colleges handle the national trend of rising demand for on-campus mental health counseling. At Point Park University and Duquesne University, students were reported to have been waiting sometimes several weeks for a session. Bucci strongly believed Point Park should hire more licensed counselors to aid with the volume of clients, but the university did not fulfill her requests.

After resigning, Bucci won’t be unemployed. She already operates a private therapy practice part-time, and plans to make it full-time. She estimates a quarter of her clients are college students, as multiple colleges refer their students to her private practice, though she sees clients as young as thirteen and much older as well. Bucci specializes in providing therapy for LGBT individuals, but she does not exclusively see such clients.

Silmari Muñoz, president of the Gender and Sexuality Spectrum Alliance student organization and a senior instructional studies student, invited Bucci to speak at her club multiple times over the past two years to advertise her services to members.

“Some of the students who we had come in, a lot of them came from smaller towns where they were used to being in the closet,” Muñoz said. “They just weren’t used to such a liberal, big place like Pittsburgh, especially Point Park, and I could tell [some] of them felt a little uncomfortable on campus still.”

Muñoz valued Bucci’s experience helping LGBT individuals and appreciated that Bucci wouldn’t leave the meetings after she pitched counseling services – she’d stay, listen and participate, Muñoz said.

Bucci’s office in Lawrence Hall, where she would counsel university clients, would be unfamiliar to anyone who saw her last semester. “Most of the things I had to make it kind of cozy are gone,” Bucci said.

Previously, Bucci outfitted the room with pictures, a series of lamps and more to create a more comfortable atmosphere. On Friday, the walls were mostly barren, and the room was starkly lit by the overhead lights instead of the lamps. She had already begun to take these belongings home, preparing for her exit. Between the chair she sits in and the chair a client would sit in, there is still a selection of snacks, like chocolate candies, granola bars and graham crackers.

One of Bucci’s clients was Charles Murria, a senior sports, arts and entertainment student who has struggled with depression for many years, and it got worse when he started to attend college.

“My depression is mainly just me feeling really, really horrible all of the time… feeling you’re inadequate, feeling really low, like you can’t… help yourself or do anything about it,” Murria said. “It’s a really hopeless feeling.”

At one point, Murria stopped eating. His father called friends of Murria’s who lived on campus to encourage them to help his son eat. Some days, Murria found it difficult to get out of bed.

“She didn’t treat me like a child,” Murria said. “She said, ‘These are the things you can do, but you don’t have to do them.’”

Murria was disappointed in the school’s administration when he heard of Bucci’s resignation. For him and other students, the prospect of a university without Bucci is sad.

“This was a woman who basically dedicated her life while she was here to the mental health of students,” Murria said.