August 20th, 2004


I can't grant your wishes, but I can sure as hell snark.

Last night I was on the phone with vernard and I started bitching because I don't have a costume yet for albumlady's party, and he was like "That's easy. Put on The Corset, put on some wings and come as the Snark Fairy."

It's so perfect I'm pissed I didn't think of it first.

So... Your input requestd. What sort of accessories does the Snark Fairy need? Tiara's a given. I've got a lovely circlet of green roses that some of you have seen, which sadly needs the elastic replaced or something before it breaks, or another copper circlet. A wand's also essential, as deza points out -- or maybe a Snark Stick to whap people with. More?

And for those of you who have seen me lately, should I make sure I get a haircut first?

EDIT: celeloriel says flowers aren't snarky. But I wuv my circlet... Other suggestions?
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Another rant on mental health

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?

EDIT: the1mouse has helpfully provided this link to the article.
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For the record...

Apparently I am not as clear a writer as I hoped I was. I do not know how people are getting the idea that I think MIT should be dumbed down. Nor am I suggesting that students should be coddled and babied. My points are twofold. Let me spell them out in black and white (or purple, as the case may be in my LJ):

  1. Refusing someone a position they are qualified for on no basis other than the fact that they have issues with mental health such as antidepressants or therapy is discrimination, pure and simple.
  2. Institutions that provide physical health care (such as employers and universities) should have a moral, ethical, and in my opinion legal obligation to provide mental health care as well.

I would like to add, though this is more of an opinion than a firm belief, that the high-stress pressure-cooker environment so prevalent in our society, especially at the top universities and pretty much any sector that is high-powered, does little to increase productivity or knowledge, probably contributes to the sort of mental problems that cost billions each year in lost productivity, and to boot turns people into insufferable raging assholes.

EDIT: penguinicity makes a powerful point I forgot to mention: Statements like Dean Jones' are only going to discourage students who need help from getting it, creating even larger problems.
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