Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An off-the-books lesson in advocacy

Or, "What you shouldn't have to learn in social work school." I've sent a draft of this letter to Professor Fun, Professor Wise, and the Executive Director for Diversity, Human Rights and Social Justice (that sounds like the title for the head torturer in 1984 or Communist Cambodia, but she's actually a wonderful person) for their input:

Dear Dean Evillene:
As you may know, last summer Eleanor told me that I owed the school 200 hours of field placement in order to graduate. I am herewith requesting that this requirement be waived in light of two facts:
1. I am working at an advanced second-year level;
2. The 200-hour deficit resulted not from lack of a suitable placement as soon as I needed one but from your office's failure to place me in a timely manner.

My first-semester evaluation amply demonstrates that my clinical skills are at not only an appropriate level, but indeed an advanced level. I have taken initiative in assessment and treatment of client needs, work both with groups and individuals, research and implement evidence-based practices, and provide both psychotherapy and case management to my clients.

I am confident that the staff and clients at the ACT team would all testify to my capabilities, initiative, responsibility, and industry. Therefore, despite the missed time at my first-year placement, I am not in need of any remediation. Moreover, the Council on Social Work Education requires only 900 hours of fieldwork to attain the MSW degree. If I complete the 600 hours this year at my current placement, I will have more than enough to meet this requirement.

Should you argue that our school has higher standards than the CSWE, I can only remind you that this deficit in my fieldwork is not due to any negligence or failure on my part. When I was removed from the abusive and prejudiced environment of my original first-year placement, I offered Eleanor two options for other placements where I could have started immediately. Instead, I was kept out of placement for a full six weeks -- 186 fieldwork hours of the 200 that I allegedly owe your office.

Had I known that I would be expected to make up those fieldwork hours on my own time, I would have insisted that I be placed immediately at one of the perfectly valid placements I found for myself-first-year student or not. Instead, I complied with Eleanor's requirement that I allow only her to place me, and did not find out until the end of the second semester that I would be expected to work 200 extra hours -- a direct result of her mismanagement of my situation.

Five weeks after graduation is a very long time to be expected to work without a salary and significantly hinders job-hunting, since I would not be accept an offer that required me to start right away. In addition to lost income, I will be unable to accrue time toward securing health insurance, since most employers do not offer coverage right when employees join. Unless your office is prepared to compensate me financially and provide comprehensive insurance coverage for the time when I will lack it, I refuse to continue at this placement beyond the Spring 2008 term.

I hope we can resolve this matter at this level.

Sincerely, Ayelet Survivor, M.A.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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