Thursday, December 07, 2006

All over but the shoutin'

Yesterday I got an email from Dr. Dragon:

Dear Ms. Survivor,

As we discussed in our meeting on 11/30/06, and during prior meetings, the first with Dr. Octopussy, and the second with Dr. Octopussy and Dr. Freud, the pattern of behavior you have demonstrated toward faculty and students over your two months in the program indicate to us that at the present time you are unsuited to becoming a clinical psychologist and providing care to patients. Examples of the behaviors you have demonstrated toward faculty and students that have already been discussed with you include: (1) a tendency to take offense at perceived slights;

[My feelings are not invalid, and the slights were not slight; they were serious.]

(2) expressions of inappropriate hostility; (3) displays of poor judgment and impulse control; (4) inability to maintain appropriate professional boundaries (5) Inability to pick up interpersonal cues; (6) a lack of insight into these behaviors and an inability to take responsiblity [sic.] for these behaviors. These behaviors have been observed by us and have been reported to us by other faculty and students.

[I have no idea who these "other faculty" could be, unless it's Dr. A, and he really would have no cause to say anything like this. The adjunct faculty would not have told them such things. Also, they're not naming the alleged students, so I have no idea if it's more than one person -- or any people, really.]

During the meeting on 11/30/06, Dr. Octopussy, Freud, and I reiterated the above, and also discussed other information that has come to our attention since your last meeting with Dr. Freud and Dr. Octopussy. We informed you at this meeting that multiple sources had informed us about your blog.

[They didn't tell me that multiple people mentioned the blog, and again, they're not exactly credible making this claim since they're not naming any of the alleged informants.]

Your blog provides further evidence of your behaviors noted above. Further, we told you at the meeting that it is clear from your blog and is confirmed by your fellow students that you lied to faculty about the identity of the people you tested for your cognitive testing course, and furthermore, asked a fellow student to lie for you to cover up your deceit. Dr. Jerk and his TAs have been very clear that you were required to use only the volunteers given to you by your fellow lab mates.

[Which would have meant that I could not complete the assignments, and which is an entirely arbitrary requirement; the students in the clinical health program at our school are encouraged to test friends and family, and the school psychology students are encouraged to test children they know. Is the clinical program more valid than those programs?]

Dr. Jerk has also made it expressly clear that students are not permitted to test anyone with whom they have a friendship or an intimate relationship and that all rules pertaining to the relationship between a therapist and a patient are to be maintained with volunteers.

[He never stated this. He said that if we tested people we knew, the results would be invalid. And since we're neophytes at this, the results are invalid anyway.]

It is clear from your blog, from your statements to us during our meeting on 11/30/06, and from confirmations of your communications with fellow students, that you were aware of these rules, that you have tested individuals not given to you by your class mates, that you have tested individuals with whom you have a personal or an intimate relationship, that you have lied to us to cover your actions, and that you have asked fellow students to lie for you. These are serious violations and represent a flagrant disregard of the rules of the clinical program and constitute a serious ethical and professional breach.

[But the unwillingness of the faculty to help me when I was stood up by someone I was supposed to test, or when a professor was harassing me, is perfectly professional.]

At the meeting on 11/30/06 you admitted that it was your blog, admitted that you have deceived us and admitted that you had tested individuals with whom you have a personal and intimate relationship. However, once again you demonstrated no insight into these behaviors and took no responsibility for your actions. You expressed to us that you did not believe you had done anything wrong by lying to us and by testing these individuals. Instead, you blamed fellow students and Dr. Jerk for not providing you with enough students and stated that you had no other recourse but to deceive us.

[Well, it was either not do the assignment because my fellow students would not give me people to test or try to do the assignment as best I could. In the meeting you asked why I didn't come to you for help -- it could be that you failed to acknowledge the letter of apology I wrote you, which inclined me to think that you would not be sympathetic to my plight with Dr. Jerk.]

You were reminded that the faculty had informed you in the past that you had the right to request accommodations if you believe you have a disability, and had informed you about the process to seek disability accommodation which would require you to request it and provide proof of disability. You did not pursue this avenue and instead chose to violate the rules of the clinical program.

[I did not pursue that avenue because by the time that option was given me, it was too late. I adhered to Dr. Jerk's requirements and tried to test people who were inconveniently located, as Dr. Jerk said I had to, despite my knee pain. And those people stood me up.]

We informed you at the meeting that these behaviors outlined above are a matter of grave concern to us and based on these behaviors, we believe that you are not suited to provide care to patients and are unsuited to the profesAgain [sic.], you did not report any insight or reflection into your own behaviors which are basic and necessary skills to becoming a therapist. Instead, you blamed others for the actions you have taken and expressed inappropriate hostile statements toward us during the meeting for concluding that your unprofessional behaviors provided evidence that you were not suited to provide care to patients.sion of clinical psychology at this time.

[I told you I was offended you would insinuate that I would consider sleeping with my male patients. That is neither inappropriate nor hostile. It is a legitimate expression of outrage at a wildly speculative and slanderous remark.]

At the meeting on 11/30/06, you were informed that effective 11/30/06, you were being placed on probation by the clinical program. You were also informed that you would face the penalties for your deceitful actions, and given the policies and procedures in the program, that you would likely incur an F in intelligence testing. Dr. Jerk will directly inform you about your grade in his course. Furthermore, you were informed that although you would be permitted to finish the Fall, 2006 semester, that the clinical faculty by unanimous vote were placing you on a leave of absence effective 12/21/06. The primary factor in our decision was your disregard for the rules and prescriptions of the clinical program, and your inability to maintain appropriate boundaries and maintain the ethical and professional behaviors necessary to become a clinical psychologist.

During this required leave of absence, we urge you to contemplate the feedback given to you this semester and use this opportunity to ameliorate these problems, which includes but is not limited to your entering mandatory weekly psychotherapy. Please note that your return to the clinical program is not guaranteed. At the end of the 2007 spring semester, you will be required to meet with a faculty committee who will determine if you may return to the program. You will be interviewed by the committee and you will be required to provide proof that you have attended weekly psychotherapy. You will also be required to provide proof that these behaviors have been remediated and that you possess the adequate interpersonal skills and professional and ethical behaviors necessary for functioning as a student within a Clinical Psychology program. Please also note that if you are permitted to return to the program, you will be required to repeat any courses in which you have received a failing grade and will not be permitted to apply for externships until we have determined that you are ready to do so.

You were informed at the 11/30/06 meeting and are being reminded again that you have the option to withdraw from the program if you so decide and that you have the right to appeal the decisions made by the clinical program. If you decide to appeal, please do so in writing to the dean within 2 weeks of receipt of this letter.

We offered you time to consider these options and have set another meeting with you. Dr. Jerk, Freud, Octopussy, and I will meet with you in my office at 1:45 pm on Thursday December 7th, 2006.

Sincerely, Devona Dragon, PhD.

I sent a copy of this nasty letter to Dr. Stats and Dr. CT, the adjuncts, with this note:

As you can see from Dr. Dragon's letter, I am being given little choice but to withdraw from this semester.

For the record, they did not inform me about the option of officially requesting special accommodation for my injury until it was too late; by then I would have missed at least one cognitive assessment assignment. I was unable to point this out to them because I walked into the meeting blind, not knowing any of the charges that would be leveled at me. They told me that I could have consulted the student handbook to find someone to advocate for my side of things, but unfortunately, the student handbook has not been printed and distributed.

Their refusal to tell me which students perceive me as angry and hostile leaves me completely unable to defend myself against this charge, and their invalidation of the insults I have suffered this semester is breathtakingly cruel. They castigate me as lacking insight, but their extreme offense taken at my behavior and refusal to acknowledge what I have done at their request, such as apologizing to Dr. Dragon after the colloquium on cognitive therapy, is just as uninsightful.

Furthermore, the restriction that I test only people I did not know is entirely arbitrary; the clinical health students test friends and family members because the goal is practice, not actual assessment. Their refusal to see the role their behavior has played in my actions -- such as a semester's worth of rudeness and hostility from Dr. Jerk, and the coldness of Drs. Octopussy, Freud, and Dragon -- is also quite obtuse.

I am sorry if you are disappointed in me. I believe I have tried my hardest this semester, despite extremely trying circumstances beyond my control, and I know I am not the only student who has been so harshly treated here. I've heard from other students and from a professor who used to teach here that such behavior on part of the tenured faculty is not uncommon.

I am not proud of having lied to the faculty, but I'm not entirely ashamed. I went to Dr. Freud early in the semester to tell him about my problems with Dr. Jerk, and he was no help. Then Dr. Octopussy called me in to castigate me for my loose boundaries after I disclosed in colloquium about my knee injury. I met with both of them to follow up, and they asked what they could do to help. I asked them to contact both of you -- and they failed to do that.

Clearly, I have been targeted for removal, and their discovery of my blog and deception of them is only a pretext. It's unfortunate that I handed it to them (or, rather, that a classmate of mine handed it to them), but while I may have been indiscreet, I am not ashamed of anything that appears on my blog. It's been one of the few things that helped me deal with this nightmare of a semester, and it's been a good way for my family and friends to keep an eye on me and support me through the grief the faculty has given me.

I have learned so much from you both, and you have been a tremendous comfort to me. If you are still willing to complete the grad school recommendations for me, please put them in my mailbox in the student lounge. A fellow student will make sure that I get them.

I bcc'd that to several friends, and Alona called me back with some advice. She helped me craft the following note to Dr. Dragon:

After receiving this letter, I would respectfully request a postponement of tomorrow's meeting so that I may ensure the attendance of a third party to represent me in this matter. I would also like to request a copy of the student handbook.

Sincerely, Ayelet Survivor, MA

Given the antagonistic tone of this email, in contrast to their expressed concern for the pain I was in during our last meeting, I have no intention of marching into another inquisition alone. My rabbi has been trying to contact the bigwigs at the university to see if they have some kind of ombudsman who could be my advocate, but personal circumstances in his life have kept him busy this week. Maybe today he'll get through to somebody.

Alona did me an even bigger favor: she talked to my mom, who's been sending me lots of emails with well-meaning but unhelpful advice, and reassured her that I'm handling the situation as best I can and getting help from others. I can't talk to mom right now; I can't deal with her unhappiness on top of my own.

My friend Boaz stopped by after his office holiday party to give me some moral support. We talked about various things going on in his life, since I really didn't want to talk about mine. Later that night he wrote me:

Hey sweety - it occurred to me as I was driving home that the validation and ego boosting and moral support you gave me tonight - especially when considered together with the kindness and support and encouragement you gave me when things started getting weird with that person in my office - essentially prove that you're capable of empathizing and helping people in need. You know what to say, how to say it, and you're in touch with the other person (in this case, me) enough to present it all in a caring and/or authoritative voice that's attuned to his or her needs.

You're good at helping people and talking things out. You help me, and I appreciate it. And I'm here to help if you need anything.

He knows me much better than the faculty does. And I'm going to choose to believe his opinion over theirs.
Copyright (c) 2006 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. Uh oh. This just seems to get more and more difficult and painful by the day.

    If you withdraw and cite medical reasons, it would seem that in the future (such as for your applications) you'd be able to say that was the reason and avoid getting into these details. Unless you also need to report disciplinary actions taken, or other circumstances?

    Are you still hoping that you might continue there next year? Would you want to even if they decided it was okay?(I'd be very surprised if so, but it would seem to be the only reason to not just withdraw now and cut your losses - are there others?)

    Good luck...

  2. Good grief. It just never ends, does it? The audacity of these ego-tripping jerks to say those things to you!

    I'm really, really glad I don't go to your school. I don't think I could respect ANY of the faculty at this point.

    Hatzlacha rabba, and I hope that you can find someone to represent you.

  3. Yeesh. It appears that you are being sacrificed here.

    I would definitely appeal if you have that option; I would also suggest you take a very conciliatory tone, as much as it may pain you to do so, even to the point of being obsequious. The school is the 800 lb. gorilla here. I had to jump through plenty of hoops too, and it killed me to do so. My feeling is they may hav elet you slide on certain things if the whole situation hadn't gotten so nuts. Just remember the end result desired- your degree.

    I have a friend who finally got his PhD in the biological sciences, after almost ten years. He also went through hell, the professor he was under was an absentee landlord in the lab, he was put on academic probation, he described his doctoral thesis defense as a gang-rape, disparaging things were said about him, he had to call in some chips, and in the end he had to suck it up and jump through their hoops. But now he has his sheepskin. So this may cost you a year, and some pride; ask yourself if you can live with knowing that you were true to yourself even though you had to yes the faculty, if that's what needs to be done for you to get by. And I think an ombudsman is an excellent idea.