The Internet has been abuzz lately about a Princeton University student who’s suing the Ivy League institution for banning him from campus after a failed suicide during his freshman year. Apparently, when the school learned of the incident (because the poor kid sought help at the campus help center), they took it upon themselves to withdraw him from his classes, noting that the “intense treatment programs [the student]would require would not allow him to continue as a full-time student.” Which sounds like a presumptuous conclusion and one that should have been made by the student and his family. In addition, I can’t seem to figure out what needing intense treatment has to do with banning someone—a troubled teenager facing the social and academic pressures of college life at one of the most competitive schools in the world—from physically walking onto campus.
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This story reeks of elitism on a level I didn’t even know existed. A respected institution designed to cater to the 18-22 year-old demographic is publicly and unabashedly exhibiting a zero tolerance policy against…young adulthood? I mean, look, I understand that not all college freshman attempt suicide but I also know that a lot of them do. And tragically, many of them are successful. The American College Health Association still names suicide as the second leading cause of death among college-age kids.
So why did Princeton ostracize this student? It certainly weakens their assertion that they have a “deep concern for the affected student and all other students.” While I was initially appalled by all of this, theorizing that Princeton was so fearful that he’d leave a mark on the school’s pristine Ivy League reputation, the truth is that colleges are notorious for handling issues around mental health and addiction horribly. (Also, this isn’t the first suicide story to come out of Princeton.)
Apparently West Coast Schools Are No Better
Newsweek recently reported on the issue, highlighting the case of a UC Santa Barbara student who, after cutting herself, received a note from her school’s housing and residential services “notifying her of her ‘alleged involvement’ in a housing policy violation.” Apparently, it was the same note friends who’d been busted for drinking and smoking pot had also received. While that student was able to get better once she found the right therapist and got on the right meds, she recently received a notice that her class registration date could be revoked because she hadn’t completed an “Educational Sanction for the UCSB Alcohol & Drug Program” soon even though she was sober at the time.
As someone who has battled depression my entire life, I truly feel for the victim here. Asking for help is difficult and I can’t imagine it’s any easier after you have swallowed 20 tabs of Trazodone. I’m sure that with all of the worst case scenarios cluttering this poor kid’s brain, he never even considered an aggressive withdrawal of support from his school to be one of them. Thankfully, he sounds like he’s got his head screwed on straighter than those in charge at his tony institution. “They’re scumbags, but I actually kind of respect their intelligence,” he told Newsweek of those administrators. “These are crafty people. They knew their stuff. They did everything right to get me out of there.”