Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The ethical complaint I won't file

When I was preparing to go over DOTS's head to the University and/or the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), I expanded my original complaint letter and included all the ways Dean Evillene violated the Social Work Code of Ethics:

Value: Dignity and Worth of the Person
Ethical Principle: Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.
Social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity.

Dean Evillene violated this principle by treating me with the utmost disdain and discourtesy, belittling, questioning and challenging me in a brusque and suspicious manner. She made no effort to empathize with my experience or pain. Rather, she sought to invalidate my experience and perspective by undermining, interrogating, and blaming me.

Value: Importance of Human Relationships
Ethical Principle: Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.
Social workers understand that relationships between and among people are an important vehicle for change. Social workers engage people as partners in the helping process.

Dean Evillene did not treat me as an equal partner with my own strengths and knowledge, a professional in my own right, or a person who deserved to be consulted and included in decisions that affect me. Rather, she treated me as a subordinate obliged to obey her unquestioningly, a student who could not possibly know what was right for my own education -- despite my maturity, my years of work experience, and my master’s degree in psychology.

1. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Clients

Social workers respect and promote the right of clients to self-determination and assist clients in their efforts to identify and clarify their goals. Social workers may limit clients' right to self-determination when, in the social workers' professional judgment, clients' actions or potential actions pose a serious, foreseeable, and imminent risk to themselves or others.

As a social work student, I am in a subordinate role to the dean of the field department, similar to a client. However, Dean Evillene did not assist me in identifying and clarifying my educational goals. Rather, she imposed her opinion of what my goals ought to be upon me, even though I was at no risk to myself or others.

1.12 Derogatory Language
Social workers should not use derogatory language in their written or verbal communications to or about clients. Social workers should use accurate and respectful language in all communications to and about clients.

Dean Evillene’s demeanor and speech toward me were consistently belittling, denigrating, and derogatory -— from the moment I entered her office. She did not manifest any respect for me as a student, a professional, or a victim of a bias incident. Her tone and manner were rude, brusque, and hostile throughout the meeting.

2. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to Colleagues: 2.01 Respect
(a) Social workers should treat colleagues with respect and should represent accurately and fairly the qualifications, views, and obligations of colleagues.

Dean Evillene’s behavior toward me was entirely devoid of respect. She refused to view me as an educated and accomplished professional in my own right. Her manner was hostile, dismissive, and rude, throughout this meeting and in every other communication I have had with her.

3. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities in Practice Settings: 3.02 Education and Training
(b) Social workers who function as educators or field instructors for students should evaluate students' performance in a manner that is fair and respectful.

Dean Evillene’s evaluation of my fieldwork experiences and interview was anything but fair and respectful. She blamed me for all the unfortunate and unpleasant circumstances in which I found myself, effectively revictimizing me.

5. Social Workers' Ethical Responsibilities to the Social Work Profession
5.01 Integrity of the Profession

(a) Social workers should work toward the maintenance and promotion of high standards of practice.
(b) Social workers should uphold and advance the values, ethics, knowledge, and mission of the profession. Social workers should protect, enhance, and improve the integrity of the profession through appropriate study and research, active discussion, and responsible criticism of the profession.
(e) Social workers should act to prevent the unauthorized and unqualified practice of social work.

Dean Evillene failed to condemn the anti-Semitic speech I experienced at my first placement, saying merely that I had been removed, the school had done its job, and I should expect nothing more. The ethical thing to do, however, would have been to assist me in filing a complaint against Miss Thing or her supervisor, the clinical director of the agency. As an outspoken anti-Semite, Miss Thing discredits the social work profession and warrants censure. Instead, I was told never to speak to anyone at the agency again.

As a first-year student, I read the Social Work Code of Ethics numerous times in several classes. I would hope I did not waste my time perusing an essentially meaningless document. If the Social Work Code of Ethics is to be taken seriously, such egregious violations thereof must be taken seriously.

[That line was in case I decided to file a complaint with NASW.]

Moreover, I do not think the University wants to appear to condone administrative abuse of students, or anti-Semitism, at this time.

[That line was kind of a threat against the University, which has been justifiably criticized for not attending sufficiently to the emotional as well as educational needs of its students.]

Good thing I didn't actually have to send it. But I'm still a little concerned. I interviewed today for a job that I really really REALLY want, and I think I have a pretty good shot at it. The interviewer, Dr. Genuine, seemed impressed with my credentials and experience, and I made him laugh in entirely appropriate ways. But can they wait until mid-June, after I've finished my obligatory (thanks to Eleanor Feckless and her dishonesty and dithering) acupuncture training?

I had to schedule the first of two follow-up interviews with Dr. Genuine. I wanted to wait until after I finish school and my last week of fieldwork and then undergo graduation, but he insisted the first follow-up interview be next week -- which also happens to be the last week of school, when I'm crazy busy trying to finish a paper I've somehow avoided working on all semester. (At least I was able to schedule it for the day after the paper is due.)

So I don't know if Dr. Genuine will be willing to wait for me to graduate, visit Yaffa and Chrissy (and the dogs and cats and the outdoor deck hot tub) in San Francisco, and then spend two weeks poking needles into people.

I hope so. I really liked the way the program was described to me, and it sounds like the work they do and the supervision they provide would advance my skills several levels. I need that; I can't afford to take a job that won't take me to the next level, if not further. I'm too old to stagnate any longer; I stagnated for a decade in PR, that most soulless of professions, and now I really need to make my work time count.

So if I lose out on this job because of the time they kept me out of placement, I will make sure DOTS knows. And the University. And ... well, I'm not sure who else, but I used to work in PR, and I still know how to make media contacts. I hope I won't have to.
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

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