From the August 23, 2004 issue of Newsweek:
"MIT admissions dean Marilee Jones says she's looking to enroll 'emotionally resilient' students. 'If we think someone will crumble the first time they do poorly on an exam, we're not going to admit them,' she says. 'So many kids are coming in, feeling the need to be perfect, and so many kids are medicated now. If you need a lot of pharmaceutical support to get through the day, you're not a good match for a place like MIT.'"
Wow, how wonderful to see such sensitivity in a person working with teenagers.
There are so many things that offend me about this statement that I don't even know where to start. Are Prozac and Ritalin overprescribed? Certainly. Are there students with mental health issues who would be better served in smaller, more supportive environments than the pressure cooker of MIT? Without a doubt. Is it fair to expect universities to bear all the responsibilty for the problems of troubled students? I don't think so. Do some of these students need to just suck it up and deal? Probably. But still...
To me, what Dean Jones seems to be saying is, "There's so much pressure on students to be perfect, and we want to make sure they can do it without drugs. Because, you know, it's not real if you can't do it without drugs. Antidepressants are for wusses."
What about diabetic students who need insulin? Technically, that's pharmaceutical support. Can you imagine the outcry if Dean Jones said this, and rightly so? I believe they have something called the Americans with Disabilities Act that says you can't do that.
Perhaps MIT is trying to dodge some of the responsibility it must bear for creating an environment where suicides and nervous breakdowns are very real issues. They may be legally adults, but most eighteen-year-olds aren't ready to deal with extreme pressure, especially on top of huge life changes like college usually involves (moving, being away from your support network...). Maybe MIT doesn't feel that expending funds on decent mental health care is a worthy use of their dollars. Never mind the old adage that says "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
During a final exam at the end of my first semester of Vanderbilt, I burst into tears and left the room to sob for twenty minutes. I got an A on that exam and went on to graduate summa cum laude. I suppose Dean Jones would have called me one of those problem students and rejected my application?
Or maybe I'm just bitter because I couldn't cut it in my grad school experience (at a school whose mental health services were much harder to obtain than those at Vanderbilt). So let's think over some of the others with mental health issues that MIT might pass over. Lincoln, Beethoven, Churchill, Van Gogh, just about every great writer of the twentieth century... would you tell them they couldn't come to your school?
has helpfully provided this link to the article.