Friday, June 08, 2007

Dean Evillene

I should have left blame well enough alone.

So my friend Katie told me I should try to talk to the dean of the school about the internship problems I've been having. The dean's confidential secretary told me I couldn't talk to the dean until I talked to the dean of the internship program, whom I will call Dean Evillene. I did that yesterday.

It was another emotional rape. Dean Evillene intimated that the problems at my first internship, the horrible interview at The Other Bad Place, not having a second-year internship, and my discomfort with Dr. Newperson were all my fault. She said that a number of students needed to be switched from their first placement, and I was the only one having such problems. She said that there was a bias incident at the first internship and they pulled me from it -- they'd done their job. I didn't have the right to have any say in my new internship.

She said The Other Bad Place appeared to be correct in their assessment that I did not self-reflect. I told her my professors didn't think that was true of me. "That's not self-reflection," she said, "that's a survey. You haven't shown me any ability to self-reflect." I told her the self-reflective things I said at The Other Bad Place to show her that I was capable of self-reflection. I don't know if she bought it.

I told her I didn't feel emotionally safe at Dr. Newperson's agency after the interrogation they laid on me. "What does that mean, 'emotionally safe'?" she asked.

Do you even have an MSW? What social worker doesn't understand "emotionally safe"? I tried to give her examples of questions that had made me uncomfortable, and she said they were legitimate questions that should not have made me uncomfortable. There was no empathy, no attempt to acknowledge the reality of my experience. Everything that happened, everything I perceived, was MY fault.

This runs contrary to every social work value I have been taught over the last 5 months.

Dean Evillene told me that The Other Bad Place and Dr. Newperson had every right to ask me why I'd been removed from my first internship -- by implication, that means the internship department didn't have to tell them that it wasn't my fault. She said that the questions Dr. Newperson asked me that made me so uncomfortable -- and that my fellow students thought were WAY inappropriate -- were perfectly legitimate.

I told her Dr. Newperson had asked me what I thought I would get out of internship there for such a brief time, and this made me feel that they wouldn't be able to provide an enriching learning experience for me -- that they didn't seem to know what to do with me.

Dean Evillene said that the internship department had determined what was best for my education -- working with Dr. Newperson. She said that even though two other first-year programs wanted me, I wasn't going to go there. "I'm sure there are lots of places that would like to have a social work student."

Not any social work student. ME! These places asked for me specifically, and they offer an experience that I would really find educational and enriching.

She also asked why, if I have a master's in psychology, I didn't apply for a psychology doctoral program. I told her that I am an older student and I wanted to get my degree quickly, and I also liked the social work emphasis on context and environment. "Okay, that's a good answer," she granted begrudgingly.

It was a horrible experience, and the only good thing about it was that I was able to keep my cool and not explode in rage or burst into tears. No matter how nasty she was or how inappropriate or unsympathetic her questions, I answered them calmly and rationally. Also, my fellow students have again come out in droves to support me. Honestly, without them I don't know what I'd do.

I realize that she was being defensive -- obviously she doesn't want her department to appear to be at fault for what I've endured, so she's trying to put it all on me. But I've spoken with enough students and faculty to know that it is their fault, not mine.

I'm not sure if I'll take this any further. Some students have urged me to write a letter to the dean of the school, expressing my pain and disillusionment. Others have recommended I just get through the rest of the first year. But I'm terrified of what will happen to my second year unless someone does something to the internship department.

Dr. Roda also thinks I should put up and shut up. Even though I might not get the best learning experience, even though I'm paying tons of money to be hurt and attacked, he thinks I should just get through it and get my degree -- that's the ultimate end goal. (It was a relief to hear that he doesn't think what's been happening is due to my bad judgment or my bipolar disorder. And he knows me better than The Other Bad Place or Dean Evelline. As do my professors and fellow students.)

So Monday morning I start working with Dr. Newperson. I'm not looking forward to it, but I'll act thrilled and enthusiastic. And I'll keep my head down and try not to make any waves.
Copyright (c) 2007 "Ayelet Survivor"


  1. i know this may sound trite, but this can be a real learning/growing opportunity for you. see it as a social work type of experience. you're dealing with a difficult client!

  2. I'm truly sorry to hear that you're not getting support from the higher-ups.

    However, the fact that you're 'accepted' at the new potentially good place is a positive sign, isn't it?

    Also, keeping your head down and not making waves, at least for the duration of this first-year internship, has got to be the best way to go. I wish the circumstances were different, but at least you'll have gotten it out of the way and you'll be able to move on.

    We're rooting for you - faculty, peers, and friends from the outside, too. We love you!

  3. Uch, it's so annoying that they're trying to make you the bad one (again!). But yeah, keeping your head down sounds like a good idea, especially under the circumstances.

    Hatzlacha rabba!