Saturday, March 11, 2006

University Sends Depressed Student in Hospital Expulsion Order, Bans Him from Returning to Campus

SUSAN KINZIE, WASHINGTON POST - 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. In the meantime, he was barred from campus.

"It was like a stab in the back," he said. He felt they were telling him, "We're going to wipe our hands clean of you."

His response has college administrators around the country taking notice: Nott sued the university and individuals involved. . . In court documents filed this week, the university's attorneys defended the actions taken, denied that Nott was disabled and suggested that his conduct might bar his recovery. . .

GWU was Nott's dream school, he said recently. He'd always wanted to study foreign relations in Washington, he said, so after starting classes, making friends his freshman year and getting straight A's, he was the happiest he'd ever been. But it was a tough year for GWU, with several sudden student deaths. One evening in April, near the end of the semester, a freshman jumped from the fifth floor of a dorm.

He was one of Nott's closest friends; they had planned to room together sophomore year. When he jumped, the complaint says, Nott and two others were trying to open his locked door to help. In fall 2004, when Nott came back to school, he started feeling depressed, he said. He kept thinking about how his friend had died. In September, another student committed suicide. Nott began going to the University Counseling Center, he said. He began taking psychiatric drugs and told counselors he thought about suicide but would not act on it, according to the complaint, and he did not attempt suicide.

In the hospital, one of the letters he received suggested that he could withdraw to defer the charges. He decided not to argue his case at a school judicial hearing to be held two days after he left the hospital, he said, worried that an effort to fight the charges would fail and leave him with a permanent black mark, an expulsion or suspension, on his transcript.

He withdrew, went home to Upstate New York, he said, missing his friends and worried that he had ruined his education. Weeks later, he waited for his father and friends to lug things down from his dorm because, he said, he had been told he could be arrested for trespassing. If he had known, he said, he never would have gone to the hospital.


At 8:00 PM, Anonymous s137mack said...

How sad. I am very disappointed in GWU for their behavior. When are people going to wake up and realize that depression affects millions of Americans and needs to be treated seriously.

At 11:37 AM, Anonymous Adrienne said...

This is outrageous. How can you BLAME someone for being depressed???

on another note

Did you hear that the biggest opponent to the law recognizing christianity as missouri's official religion is the christian least they are doing the right thing.

At 5:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I feel sorry for Mr. Nott, This case stems from the situation at MIT where the parents of a student sued the school after their daughter committed suicide follwing several trips to the psych center on campus.

The problem is that the laws have put schools in an ambiguous situation regarding adult students enrolled in college. So, naturally, the colleges and universities are in CYA mode. They have chosen to remove the problem that can get them sued!

At 8:01 PM, Blogger Luke said...

The reasoning that universities ought "to remove the problem that can get them sued" (i.e., dismissing/expelling students who are seeking mental health services) is both cold-hearted AND stupid from a legal standpoint.

If the student was suicidal BEFORE being asked to leave, how do you think he felt AFTER the threat of expulsion (for simply seeing a doctor!)?

Based on what I know of this case, GWU deserves to be sued. Why? Aside from possibly violating the student's medical privacy rights (HIPAA), the school also failed to exercise the basic principle of common sense. You cannot apply a one-size-fits-all approach to this kind of situation, period.

Perhaps in the future, other dumb-as-rocks administrators will think more carefully about how to cover their cowardly asses (while also, SURPRISE!, assisting their students in as individualized, sensitive, and humane a manner as possible).

At 6:52 PM, Anonymous Sam said...

that is INSANE! my goodness!
I'm confused how GWU got away with that! That almost has to be illegal - and you made good points about the medical privacy rights, etc.
you crazy yankees! All the news I hear from you - our cover story today: the sunshine girl calendar!!!


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