Saturday, March 11, 2006

Is depression grounds for suspension?

Washington Post - GWU Suit Prompts Questions Of Liability
Apparently George Washington University thinks so:
About 2 a.m. one sleepless night, sophomore Jordan Nott checked himself into George Washington University Hospital.

He was depressed, he said, and thinking about suicide.

Within a day and a half of arriving there, he got a letter from a GWU administrator saying his "endangering behavior" violated the code of student conduct. He faced possible suspension and expulsion from school, the letter said, unless he withdrew and deferred the charges while he got treatment.

Over at University Diaries the take is "sued if you do sued if you don't" and her sympathies are with her university. But I have to take a little different perspective on this one.

I can understand not wanting to be sued over suicides, but it seems to me that threatening to suspend or expel the students that seek help is ultimately detrimental to their cause. It seems to me that this would discourage treatment and possibly lead to more suicides. Ones that could be considered their fault because their policy penalized those who sought help. It seems like a wiser policy to encourage treatment and threaten suspension to those who will not consent to treatment, if they want to have a policy on the issue.

Additionally, it seems that if you truly are going to be "sued if you do and sued if you don't" then the best policy is to do what is best for the students. Turning your back on them at a vulnerable time hardly seems to fit that bill. And even if the university doesn't see it as turning their back on the student, the student obviously saw it that way. To a depressed and suicidal individual, his or her impression of the situation is really all that matters at that point.

I certainly hope our university doesn't have a policy like that.

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