Central Michigan University refuses to acknowledge its shortcomings in providing sufficient resources for students combating mental health

Tuesday, 10/5/16
MOUNT PLEASANT, MI

Recently, Central Michigan Life published an article by Cheyanne Rutterbush titled, "After a 107 student long wait list in fall 2015, this fall has no wait list" (in an attempt to eradicate that statistic, the article's title has been changed to "Counseling Center wait list down from last fall" on October 5th, 2016, three days after its publication). The article then goes on to address the positive aspects of the Central Michigan University Counseling Center.  Nevertheless, the article fails to shed light on why the Counseling Center has experienced such a significant drop in those trying to utilize their services. 

In the article, Ross Rapaport, Director of the Counseling Center, claims that the counselors, psychologists, and social workers of the counseling staff works to ensure a warm and friendly environment for all students. "We do what we can to help make students comfortable when coming to or contacting the Counseling Center. It's very important to us," Rapaport tells CM Life.  If a student feels uncomfortable with the counselor, they have the option to switch to another. 

The article then proceeds to highlight that last fall, the Counseling Center had a wait list consisting of 107 students all of which were "offered" at least a single session. Rapaport recalls, "During the spring semester 2016, we operated essentially without a wait list unless a student was waiting to see a specific counselor." It begs the question, why is a counseling center, one that is truly dedicated to the comfort and support of their students, seeing a decline in the use of their services? 


Well, as the CM Life article mentions, not everyone feels comfortable opening themselves up and expressing their emotional distress the first time they meet with a mental health professional. As Rapaport is reported as saying, it can take multiple meetings for a student to feel comfortable with a counselor. He even acknowledges that a student might have to switch to a completely different counselor in order to find the comfort needed to begin addressing their mental health concerns. Rutterbush acknowledges that the counseling center at Central Michigan University is meant for "short-term visits." She also tacks on another quote from Rapaport, "The number of counseling sessions a student has with their counselor varies depending on the situation. We encourage students to discuss this with their counselor." 

If that's the case, how was a girl struggling with the chronic depression she was diagnosed with at age eleven limited to a measly two sessions? (To view her story, read the predecessor to this article: "A look at Central Michigan University's disregard for students battling mental illness") Even if she was able to connect with the counselor she sat down with on her first visit, what kind of mental health professional decides that "the situation" brought forth by an individual actively seeking help for a chronic mental illness is to be deserving of no more than two meetings? Likewise, what kind of mental health professional considers two counseling sessions to be sufficient when a patient is still struggling to combat their mental illness after already having spent seven years in treatment? 


On the other hand, what if she didn't feel comfortable with the counselor assigned to her? What if she needed more than two time-limited sessions to rise above the anxieties of presenting herself at her most vulnerable to a complete stranger? Perhaps she was debating switching to another counselor but never had the chance. 


If the CM Life article is true, why are so many Central Michigan students unsatisfied with the services available to them through the university?  With that being said, I feel it necessary to provide the following first hand statements from students who were courageous enough to share their own experiences with the university's mental health services. The following are just two of the statements I received following my first article addressing Central Michigan University's complete disregard for students battling mental illness: 


"I have been battling depression since I was a junior in high school, and attended therapy regularly up until I left for school and CMU. I first contacted the CMU Counseling Center one morning after having a panic attack my sophomore year. When I called, a voice recording asked if this was an emergency or not, and I remember being unsure as to what constituted as an emergency, therefore choosing that it was not. I came in contact with a woman who asked me my schedule and let me know that I would receive a phone call back when they could find time to fit in an appointment for me. A couple days later they called and asked if I could come to an appointment about a week later, which I agreed to. At my appointment, the lady asked me a couple background questions and asked why I had come today. As I started explaining my thoughts and feelings, becoming more and more vulnerable, I noticed that everything I said was met with a single “Mm-hm” from her. I remember that I would talk about something, wait for her to respond, and watch as she just sat and stared at me. Other than the occasional question to clarify, I don’t think I was ever given back an actual piece of advice, suggestion, or even a bit of conversation back. As the hour came to an end, she scheduled an appointment for me to come back at the same time next week. I remember feeling slightly confused as I left. I was unsure as to whether I had been helped or not. At my next appointment, she asked if I had endured anymore panic attacks, to which I told her I had not. I told her a little bit about how my week went, how it had been good and how I was feeling a little better that morning. I talked for about ten minutes, and she then decided that I was fine and that after ten minutes there was no need to continue this session, or to schedule any following sessions. She determined that my need for therapy was over because of one temporary good week I had and I did not know how to refute this… so I simply agreed and left. Ultimately, going to the counseling center probably hurt more than it helped. I had been comforted in knowing that CMU was so willing to help their students who had mental illnesses, but after pursuing it I felt as though my depression had been dismissed as “just a bad week”. As a senior now, I have not tried going again since."


This is a perfect example of Central Michigan University's disregard for students battling mental illness. Just as hearing doesn't always equate to listening, acknowledging doesn't always mean acknowledgement. How much assistance do a few "mm-hms" provide a student seeking validation for their problems? And, after leaving the progress-less first session, their problems void of acknowledgment, this individual was dismissed within the first ten minutes of their next visit. After having the strength to reach out for help moments after suffering a panic attack and waiting over week for an appointment, their hand was swatted away by the very person who was supposed to pull them up.

"I’m currently 21 years old and I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression since I was 18 years old. My anxiety became a problem during my winter break of my senior year of high school. I went to a counseling center near my house for a while... 

Fast forward to my freshman year of college, one of the scariest transitions of my life. I’m already uncomfortable that I’m away from home and then throw anti-depressants in the mix, it was an interesting first month to say the least. But I eventually found peace by discovering that there were kids like me. Kids like me that hurt on the inside, but never had the guts to show it on the outside.


My first experience with the CMU Mental health center was second hand. After countless nights of talking my roommate off the edge, I finally convinced him to try out the services. I even promised to walk him to to the center and wait till he was checked in before I left his side. When he returned he told me the plan of the rehabilitation, take it slow and eventually try to find the cause of his anxiety fueled depression. But this taking it slow talk, didn’t last. He went for a total of 4 visits before they started talking about how this is supposed to be a short term program and that he should basically prepare himself to slowly start weening off the treatments. 



Weening off the visits? You just [expletive] told this kid that it would be a slow process and after four visits, you’re explaining to him that the plan is, for his visits to come to an end? Anybody with anxiety has a hard enough time adjusting to new people and situations, let alone talking with someone about their deepest darkest issues. If anything, he was just starting to feel comfortable by that fourth visit. He was just beginning to lean on them as a crutch and they ripped it out from under him. 


Within a few weeks he relapsed and was back at square one. We were having our talks all over again, as if he had never reached out for help. He felt as if the center didn’t help him at all.


Now, my experience. Last spring, I slowly started to realize that all of my relationships were very controlling. My jealousy fueled outbursts were not healthy for me or the people I was with. I finally came to grips with the fact that I had anger issues, and decided to seek help. So I went to the Health Services building and signed up.


At this point, I was pretty comfortable with telling people about my problems, so that was a breeze. But the environment itself was very unsettling. I talked to my therapist in what seemed like a side closet, barely big enough for two chairs and a small desk. The walls were paper thin and I’m sure that if someone really wanted to listen to our conversations, they could have.


My first session was the mandatory introduction [expletive], who I am, where I’m from and what I hope to accomplish. After that, my following four sessions were all pretty similar. My therapist would ask me how my week was and if I got upset. He would then ask me why I got upset, I would vent about it for a half hour, he would tell me to try and not get so upset about the little things, suggest that I try to think happy thoughts and then tell me he’d see me next week. That was it. Every week was the same conversation, with no solution. 


When I finally started to feel like I was getting comfortable with my anger and on the right path to controlling it, he told me that after my 5th visit, it was time to discuss ending the sessions. 


Now I’m lucky enough that my issue was anger. I’m not angry enough to hurt anybody or myself, so there was really no major threat that I stopped my sessions. I was just going to seek any guidance I could in the first place, so it’s not like ending the sessions would bring my life to a screeching halt.


But what about my roommate? What about everyone else with suicidal thoughts and tendencies that finally built up the courage to seek help and then get told five sessions in, that it’s time to consider other options? It disgusts me that it’s such an accelerated process. Mental rehabilitation is the one thing that should never, ever be rushed."


Fortunately, both of these students were paired professionals competent enough to realize that it would require more than two sessions to address their matters. Yes, it is clearly stated that the university's counseling services are meant to be short-term and that students should discuss any session related concerns with their counselor— but, why? Was it the need to accommodate the nonexistent wait list? At the very least, those who have been utilizing mental health resources from before they ventured to a university and/or those with a documented, diagnosed mental illness should be able to visit with adequate mental health professionals without restraint. 


How is it that these two statements completely contradict the article published by CM Life? Clearly the above students were unsatisfied with their treatment regardless of the number of sessions that they received. Even more disturbing is Central Michigan University's refusal to acknowledge their inadequacy when it comes to their mental health services. Then again, can we expect a university to acknowledge such a problem when the mental health professionals they've employed can't acknowledge the problems of the students seeking their help?


Is it so far-fetched to think that the wait list is nonexistent because Central Michigan's Counseling Center isn't providing students with the help that they expect to receive, the help that they need?  Just like a restaurant, people are willing to wait if the service is adequate and the outcome is beneficial to the customer. And, if the restaurant succeeds in the latter, people tend to go back for more.


Clearly, it's Central Michigan's turn to respond. The first step in resolving any issue is acknowledging that a problem exists to address your faults is to address your strengths. Silence is cowardly and anyone or anything with a reputation worth defending ought to do so. Either take value in your institution or take value in your students. If you value your institution, acknowledge your faults and work to make the university's mental health services the best in the MAC, Michigan, the Midwest or the country. If you value your students, acknowledge your faults and work to make the university's mental health services a resource that meets both the expectations and the needs of those students seeking help. Provide a resource that will allow every student to flourish, not just a few.

To visit the CM Life article, please click here.
To read the article "A look at Central Michigan University's disregard for students battling mental illness," click here.


Seth Canner
Assistant Editor-In-Chief, CLB
Law Clerk, Levitt Law Firm 

Embrace the Future and Vote on Principle

Tuesday, 9/6/16

Image result for american flag stock free images

The Democratic National Convention is wrapping up and Hillary Clinton has secured the Democratic nomination. The two major parties have now chosen their candidates for president. Donald Trump will represent the Republican Party and Hillary Clinton will represent the Democratic Party. The Libertarian Party chose Gary Johnson earlier this summer to represent them and Jill Stein will undoubtedly be selected to represent the Green Party.
As convention season is coming to a close and the choices have been narrowed to a few options, it will soon be time to start making decisions on who will be the next leader of the United States of America. This article is not meant to push the reader in one way or another. Rather, it is to inspire the reader to make up their mind on their own and vote for a candidate they believe will lead the United States the best.
Now that the candidates have been chosen, parties and campaigns are going to try and connect with the voter any way that they can. Advertisements will begin to flood television, radios, and social media trying to persuade people to vote one way or another. Contrary to what candidates and campaigns will tell the voters, there are viable reasons to vote for every candidate.
What makes the United States of America an incredible country is the ability the people possess to voice their opinion and have a say in the political process. While this is a wonderful right of the American citizen, many people do not exercise it. Voter apathy is one of the biggest issues facing the United States. Some of that apathy comes from the idea that one person’s vote does not matter. So far, the 2016 election seems as though it will do nothing but further that idea because the two major parties have selected polarizing candidates which is problematic to the moderates.
While many people are upset about not having their ideal candidate representing the major parties, voting is still crucial. Not only that, but voting with principle is imperative.
Donald Trump and the Republican Party are going to tell voters that a vote for a more obscure candidate is a vote for Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are going to tell voters that a vote for another candidate is a vote for Donald Trump. The Libertarians and Gary Johnson are going to tell voters that voting for a major party is a vote for the status quo in politics. There is nothing wrong with this. They are passionate about their beliefs and they truly believe that they will take the United States of America in the right direction.
Voters have an incredible ability. They can push this country in the direction that they want. The people quite often underestimate their power. The people have immense amounts of influence on the direction the government moves in. One vote for a candidate like Jill Stein might seem irrelevant, but if the citizens work to stay educated and they vote their beliefs, that will not be the case. This election cycle provides evidence of this. Bernie Sanders, a Socialist started off the election cycle as an unknown candidate. It was seemingly inevitable that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. Bernie Sanders garnered more support than anyone could have imagined and inspired disenfranchised voters to get involved in the political process. While he did not win the nomination, he showed that any candidate has a chance if the people take advantage of their right to vote and express their opinion. He had little support from the establishment and special interest groups. His average donation was $29, which is unheard of for a candidate who is a true contender in the election, but he was able to promote change without the help of the political elite and special interest groups.
The point being made is not that the United States of America loves socialism. Rather, it is that the people can provoke the change they desire by getting out, voting, and expressing their opinion. If Bernie Sanders can galvanize that much support without the help of his party and special interest groups, why is it so far-fetched to believe that another candidate can do the same? It is simply a fallacy in the minds of the American people.
With all of this being said, each candidate, no matter how obscure or mainstream, brings something different to the table. They represent a set of ideals. Some ideals are popular and some are not, but that does not mean that they are any less relevant than the others.
If the people vote based on who they think will win, then they have missed the point of voting. The presidential election is not the same as betting on sports teams winning championships. The people do not have a say in what a sports team does, but they do have a say in the direction of the nation. The people do not owe anything to parties or candidates. The people do not exist to support the government, the government exists to help the people. Therefore, it is up to the voter to educate themselves on the issues, read about every candidate and their ideals and vote for the candidate that aligns closest to the principles of the voter.
If every citizen educates themselves, makes their own opinion, and casts their vote based on their principles, anything can happen. The government quite often does not reflect the ideals of the people, but that should not be a surprise given the fact that more than one third of the population did not vote in the 2012 election cycle. How can the government truly reflect the ideals of the people if a massive percentage of voters do not express them through voting?
If the average citizen does not agree with the direction of the government, they have a responsibility to the future of the nation to vote for change. If the citizen does not vote for change, it sends a message to government that the status quo is acceptable. The founding fathers constructed our government to be a reflection of the ideals of the people. It is foolish to expect that the government will change the way it operates if the people do not express their dissatisfaction through voting. It is not enough to go on social media and share or like something. Voting is not done through social media and political leaders do not use social media to determine policy. Political leaders determine policy based on how the people vote.
The United States of America is a constantly changing entity pushed forward by citizens involving themselves and voicing their beliefs through the process of voting. The United States will continue to move forward, but the only way that it will move forward in a way that reflects the ideals of the people is if citizens embrace and exercise their right vote and vote based on their principles.
DISCLAIMER: This article is largely based on opinion and personal experience. The intention is to provoke thought, not to persuade or push one way or another. Therefore, please read this, think about it, then make up your mind for yourself.

College students, piracy and the illegal downloading of music, movies and pornography, Todd L. Levitt, Central Michigan Student Lawyer, Cyber Attorney


Each year millions of students populate college campuses excited to kick off their college career.  These students bring with them the latest technology including: smart phones, laptop computers and tablets.Using these devices  students can share files, download free apps.  Explore "illegal" websites containing  free pornography, movies and music.  Despite the skill set the student possesses they are, for the most part, uninformed and misguided as to what the laws are regarding piracy, copyrights and the  downloading of protective property rights of others.

Piracy:  Music piracy is the copying and distribution of copies of a piece of music for which the composer, recording company did not give permission or consent.

Copyright infringement:  Copyright infringement is often associated with the terms piracy and theft. Copyright infringement is the use of works protected by copyright law.

(Title 17, United States Code, Sections 501 and 506): provides severe civil and criminal penalties for the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, rental or digital transmission of copyrighted sound recordings.  

Civil penalties: could cost you thousands of dollars in damages.

Criminal penalties: could leave you with a felony record, together with possible jail time up to five years and fines up to $250,000

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and financially vitality of the major music companies.


LAWSUIT:

As a  criminal defense attorney located in a college town, I represent students who receive letters from the copyright owner threatening legal action in court unless they agree to a settlement ranging from $1,500 to $4,500. I have settled cases for as low as $300.00 and as high as $750.00. The settlement can vary depending on the amount of downloaded material and the willingness of the owner(s) and agencies to settle.

The following is a typical scenario whereby a student finds himself/herself in an illegal download case:


  1. Student arrives in the dorms, apartments or housing complex to begin their college year.
  2. The student has access to an internet connection via Wi-Fi, cable or Ethernet cord.
  3. The student or someone utilizating their network connection proceeds to illegally download music, movies and video using widely known torrent software.
  4.  The copyright owner, or the company that owns the rights to the illegally downloaded material, identifies your devices IP address (often due to the use of torrent software on part of the student). Additionally, the owner obtains information through  subpoena power, obtaining a list of the IP logs/addresses directly from the website  in which student downloaded from. 
  5.  Once the student is identified, the copyright owner files a lawsuit in federal district court and The copyright owner through additional subpoena power orders your (ISP) INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER, TO DISCLOSE YOUR NAME AND CONTACT INFORMATION BASED ON THE IP LOGS.  The IP logs connect the illegally downloaded material to an IP address, and your ISP can connect that IP address to the student because the IP was assigned to your internet connection at the exact time of the illegal activity (downloads).
Next:  You receive the threatening letter discussed above regarding legal action if a certain sum is not paid by the student.

What are my options if I am on the receiving end of one of the threatening letters?

A.  You should immediately notify your parents that you received such a letter.

B.  Consult with an attorney who understands this area of law.

C.  You can negotiate the settlement amount.

D.  My experience with clients is that they will settle the porn cases to avoid an embarrassing lawsuit.

E.   I have seen cases where the student ignored the letter and no further action came from the copyright owner. (do not reply upon this and always consult with an attorney)

F.   If you ignore the letter and fail to consult with an attorney you could be sued costing you more time and expense compared to settling the case.


CYBERCRIME is a term for any illegal activity that uses a COMPUTER as its primary means of commission. The U. S. Department of justice expands the definition of CYBERCRIME to include any illegal activity that uses a computer for the storage of evidence”    source: TechTarget




Attorney, Todd L. Levitt, has been representing students for more than 22 years, in the area of criminal defense, student related issues and all cybercrimes via the internet. For more information or to speak to an attorney call 989-772-6000, centralmichiganlawyer.com, collegelawyerblog.com


A look at Central Michigan University's disregard for students battling mental illness

Wednesday, 8/10/16
MOUNT PLEASANT, MI

Mental health has an indisputable roll in a college student's classroom performance. A student with a positive disposition is destined to make strides in their collegiate career. Not only are they likely to experience academic triumph, but they are also likely to perceive their academic hiccups as learning experiences.  Those with keen mental health are able to take their frustrations and failures as fuel to push themselves to improve each and every day. On the contrary, those struggling with their mental health, with illnesses such as anxiety and/or depression, are at an automatic disadvantage. Although not all who struggle with mental health are stymied by their issues, there are a number of students whose potentials are weighed down by their illnesses.  

With that being said, a majority of colleges and universities provide exceptional mental health facilities and counseling services for their students. In particular, Central Michigan University, in their Counseling and Mental Health Services brochure, states that their "primary mission is to provide a quality education for its students. This includes a commitment to assist students in adjusting to college life and reaching their full and academic potential." The brochure also includes Central Michigan's recognition of both past and present physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as factors on mental health. 

Nevertheless, in investigating Central Michigan University's actual commitment, specifically, to students struggling with mental health issues, to fulfilling their mission to provide a quality education for their students, aid in their adjustment to collegiate life, and, most importantly, assisting those students in reaching "their full personal and academic potential," I came across some disturbing stories two of which I am about to share.

Before continuing, I must applaud the individuals who are allowing me to share their stories in the hopes that it promotes change in the way Central Michigan University deals with students who are battling mental health issues. It is not easy to open up, let alone disregard the absolute rational fear of judgement and come face to face with the unavoidable feeling of vulnerability that accompanies sharing your story. Therefore, as a writer, I am committed to the anonymity of these two students. Furthermore, the promise of anonymity comes at the expense of detail, albeit a lack of detail should not mask Central Michigan University's complete disregard for mental illness.

The first story tells the tale of a student that sought help in all the right ways and was failed. It shows a student that refused to suffer in silence but found herself silenced by a university who refused to assist her in reaching her potentials. It begins with a girl that was ecstatic to become a Chippewa. She explained that when looking at her future and when thinking about college, she "actually pictured" herself "as a Central Michigan student". In fact, she trusted that Central Michigan University would equip her with the proper tools to propel her toward her goal of becoming a school teacher. Like most individuals aspiring to meet their goals, she allowed very little to stand in her way not even the dysthymia (chronic depression) that she had been battling since before her diagnosis at eleven years old. 

Unfortunately, the transition to college life can be difficult, even more so for someone struggling with depression. For the first time, many students are on their own, leaving behind the support systems they built at home. For this young woman, a positive transition was barred by roommate problems. Aware that those problems were having an effect on her mental health, she spoke with her Resident Assistant, the first resource suggested for struggling on-campus residents by CMU's Counseling and Mental Health Services brochure. To her dismay, seeking her RA for assistance did not provide a solution. The problems with her roommates continued to escalate to the point that she could barely stand being in her own room; the place she was to call a home away from home, a place of refuge. Eventually, her issues were brought to the attention of her Residence Hall Director, who, after not responding to her for two weeks, told the young woman that she was unable to change rooms and that there was nothing more the University could do to help her; she would have to make the best of an unpleasant situation. To no surprise, she began to feel helpless and lonesome.

As if those feelings were not enough to feed her depression, things would worsen. Following an alleged sexual assault at the university, her depression grew to the point of debilitation. "I couldn't get out of bed to go to class," she detailed. Correspondingly, her grades dropped and she was placed on academic probation. Realizing that her dreams were at stake, she met with a mental health professional at CMU, hoping that speaking with a counselor would be the therapeutic outlet that she was desperate to find. Sadly, Central Michigan limited her "free counseling" to a mere two sessions, which provided her with nowhere near the support she needed. She described her frustration, how the lack of adequate resources left her feeling even more helpless than before. Inevitably, she received a notice of academic dismissal due to her poor academic standing. 

Still fueled by the pursuit of becoming a teacher, this young woman found light in her dismissal. At the end of the notice existed an opportunity for dismissed students to apply for an interview that would allow them to provide the extenuating circumstances that led to their poor academic standing. Exceptions to Central Michigan's re-matriculation policy (students under academic dismissal must wait at least one year before reapplying) would be granted under "acceptable" extenuating circumstances. They were provided as follows: 

 "1. Personal illness or accident: Provide doctor or hospital validation that you missed a significant number of classes due to serious illness or as the result of an accident. Provide proof of recovery.
2. Death in family: Provide doctor's note, death notice, or a copy of a certificate of death for an immediate family member (father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, child). Provide proof of the ability to cope.
3. Personal/family problems: Personal or family problems which where serious enough to affect your academic career must be documented by a counselor, physician, lawyer, or other appropriate source. Provide proof of recovery. At least 6 months of recovery is required." 

She entered her interview confident that her dream school would side with her. She was suffering from a personal illness, a mental illness, one that had been documented for almost a decade. How could it be disregarded? She explained how her roommate issues, issues that had been brought to the attention of her RA and RHD, had impacted her. She explained how after her alleged sexual assault, she sought treatment at Central Michigan's counseling center. She even offered documentation of a recent hospitalization that resulted from her inability to eat while in her depressive state. Time and time again she was told that her "excuses" were not "good enough." The interview ended with this young woman being told, "Again, I'm sorry, not a valid excuse. I'm not able to help you. You are no longer able to stay a CMU student." 

If depression put this young woman's dreams into a coffin, Central Michigan University nailed it shut. This student, after successfully dealing with her depression for almost a decade, crumbled in a school year. No, a hostile rooming environment is not the university's fault. The inability to move a student's room is understandable  it is a university, not a hotel. But, two weeks for an RHD to respond to issues that were escalated to their office? Nail. Telling a student with chronic depression that there was nothing that could be done for them and that it was up to them to make the best of their situation? Nail. Advertising "free counseling" and then, when someone with a documented mental illness is desperate for some sort of help, limiting those free sessions to two? Nail. Interviewing a student faced with dismissal, that is attempting to validate her poor performance, driven by nothing but the hope that she can keep her career ambitions alive, and telling her that the documented extenuating circumstances are excuses that are not good enough for her to continue on as a student at their dream school? Buried. 

The language that outlines the acceptable extenuating circumstances for academic dismissal demonstrates Central Michigan University's sad disregard for mental illness. I am confident that the masses would agree that depression, if not most mental health disorders, qualifies as a "personal illness." So much so, that it is seemingly impossible to believe that an institution of higher learning in the year 2016 would not consider depression as a personal illness. If it qualifies, how is anyone suffering from the latter to provide proof of recovery? It is impossible. There is no definite, lifelong fix for a chemical imbalance in the brain. Even if Central did not write off this young woman's depression as an "excuse" and accepted her depression as a valid extenuating circumstance, would they consider her attempts at utilizing university resources as a valid proof of recovery? If the university was truly committed to aiding their students in reaching their full personal and academic potential, I would assume the answer to be, yes. But, I am not so sure, because, in its current standing, it appears that Central Michigan University believes that depression belongs in the same grouping as mononucleosis.

Even if Central does not consider depression as a valid excuse for poor academic standing, they could at least make an effort to pretend. Even if they do not consider mental health issues to be a personal illness, a simple fourth point titled "Mental disability or illness" might do the trick. Even if they plan on rejecting every single student that comes in for a dismissal interview with a history of mental illness as their extenuating circumstance, they could, at the very least, validate the internal struggles of those students as they face their nadirs. 

Building upon the previous, Central Michigan University's disregard for mental illness manifests itself in the university's handling of students struggling with mental health. Allow me to introduce a young man, who like the young woman in the previous story, had also been diagnosed with a mental illness: a bipolar disorder. Although, different from chronic depression, the two disorders share many characteristics, including an elevated risk of suicide. In an attempt to gain the upper hand over his disorder, which had been "magnified by the transition to college," he utilized university resources. However, meeting with both a university psychiatrist and a counselor was not enough to suppress thoughts of suicide. And, in what he describes as "the most regrettable decision" he has ever made, attempted to take his own life. Fortunately, in the midst of an overdose, he decided against taking his own life, sought help, and was rushed to a local hospital. Despite consuming approximately a month's worth of the pills, the pills he was prescribed to alleviate him from the afflictions of his bipolar disorder, he survived. 

After a recovery period in the hospital, the student returned to Central Michigan University. Oddly enough, he describes the attempt as somewhat therapeutic: after realizing that his course of action was wrong and obtaining medical assistance, he was well aware how lucky he was to be given a second chance. He let thoughts of suicide grow too long, and he was now determined to never let those poisonous seeds germinate again. There were only a handful of people that were aware of what had happened and he intended to keep it that way. Nonetheless, his desire to let his mistake reside in the past was quickly shattered. Immediately upon his return, he was informed that he was to meet with a panel of university officials, Residence Life staff, and university mental health professionals to determine whether or not he was able to continue his education at Central Michigan. Initially, he refused, but was informed, that if he chose to do so, he would be dismissed as a student and he was forced to comply. 

So, within a few days of attempting to take his own life, this young man found himself in a room, made up of mostly strangers, that would not only interrogate him, but decide his fate as a student.  Fortune struck once again, after deliberating, the panel decided that the young man in front of them would be able to continue his education as a Chippewa.  

However, there was a catch, in order to remain a CMU student, he had to sign a behavioral contract. The contract labeled his suicide attempt as a "disruption to the learning/living environment of others" and it proclaimed that any further disruptions to the learning/living environment on behalf of the signee would result in further discipline and/or dismissal from the university. "The contract became a stigma of my mental illness. In a time in my life where I already felt hopeless, my cry for help was declared as a 'disruption to the learning and living environment.'  I felt so ashamed," reflected the young man.  

To be fair, the Central Michigan University Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Disciplinary Procedures declares under section 3.2.8, titled, Disruptive Self Injurious Behavior: "A student shall not engage or threaten to engage in self-injurious behavior that negatively impacts or is disruptive to the learning/living environment of others." Technically speaking, a suicide attempt is disruptive self injurious behavior. 

At the same time, section 3.2.8 displays Central Michigan University's disgraceful view on mental health. There could not be a more blatant disregard for students struggling with mental illness. Struggling is an understatement if an individual is engaging in self injurious behavior, they are losing their battle with mental illness. But, as long as a student's self injurious behavior coexists with the learning and living environment of others, who cares! Right? Wrong. 

Central Michigan could not have cared less about the student sitting before them. They essentially muzzled a student's cry for help when they provided their ultimatum. How can anyone look someone in the eye, days after they tried to take their own life, unaware of that person's mental state, and tell them that they are at fault for negatively impacting their peers as a result of their suicide attempt? 

Believe it or not, mental illness is not cured with the signing of a behavioral contract. The student's disorder worsened with the arrival of winter, but, because he was under a contract that threatened dismissal, he was afraid to seek help. He knew the university was monitoring his behavior and he did not want to give the impression that he was struggling through the change in season.  He suffered in absolute silence for months, until, one day, he broke down. 

Consequently, his break down led to his removal from the dorms. Without any sort of dialogue between the student and the university, they notified him that he was no longer welcome in the dorms due to his continued disruption to the learning/living environment of others. Instead, he was relocated to a room in which he was to live alone for the remainder of the school year.  

It does not take a psychologist to realize the detrimental impact that can occur when an individual with a mental disorder is isolated. Things were destined to get worse, and they did.  Within days of his removal from his dormitory, this young man withdrew from classes. He struggled to cope with his removal. He struggled to cope with that fact that no one from the university had spoken to him in the the eighteen hours between his break down and his removal. He struggled to cope with the fear that he would always be a product of his disorder. Yet, Central Michigan University told this student that he was lucky that the university was still accommodating him despite his actions.

Of the passel of statements that can be made in regard to this students removal, I want to highlight one thing: Central Michigan University is lucky that their refusal to work with mental illness did not result in the death of a student.


Now, the lens must shift back to the premise of this article: does Central Michigan withhold their commitment to fulfilling their mission, specifically to students struggling with mental health issues, as a university? Absolutely not. 

Regardless, Central Michigan's inability to effectively handle mental illness must be addressed. Alternative solutions must be explored and implemented. The internal struggles of those burdened with mental illness must not only be validated, but accepted. A dialogue concerning mental health and Central Michigan University must occur. I also feel it necessary to mention that I personally contacted Central Michigan University at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year in the hopes of opening up said dialogue. As expected, the university never responded.  A university should be committed to the success and well being of all its students regardless of the disadvantages they are facing. Nevertheless, it's going to take more than an article ridden with anaphora to promote change. 


Works Referenced: 
Central Michigan University's Counseling and Mental Health Services brochure 
Central Michigan University's Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Disciplinary Procedures 

Seth Canner
Assistant Editor-In-Chief, CLB
Law Clerk, Levitt Law Firm 

Michigan State Police to administer roadside drug tests

Thursday, 7/14/16

MOUNT PLEASANT, MICHIGAN
     


Central Michigan, College Lawyer, Todd L. Levitt, Podcasting Popular Radio Show on iTunes, Podbean and Soundcloud.

Tuesday

July 5th, 2016

MOUNT PLEASANT, MI


The Todd L. Levitt Law Show airs every Sunday morning from 9:00am to 10:00am on 98.5 UPS, the classic hits station. The show features attorney Todd L. Levitt, co-host and producer Nikki Morrissette, and yours truly (Tyler B. Webb) as a weekly co-host.

Previous guests of the show include: State Representative Jeff Irwin (53rd District, City of Ann Arbor), Attorney Barton Morris from Cannabis Legal Group, Attorney Jon Marko, Attorney Dan Bain, author and leading lemon law and consumer protection attorney Steve Lehto, Marijuana legalization activist Brandon McQueen and others!

The show discusses a series of topics that include medical marijuana, and marijuana legalization, revenge porn, drivers license restoration laws, college campus news and much more. The Todd L. Levitt Law shows aims to create an educational, and fun listening experience for all those tuning in. All of the shows are uploaded to iTunes, Podbean and Soundcloud and are available to our listeners for FREE.

Check out the Todd L. Levitt Law Show on iTunes (<-- click the link!).

Thanks for listening!

Tyler B. Webb
Senior Law Clerk, Levitt Law Firm
Editor-In-Chief, collegelawyerblog.com

Interview with Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin, 53rd district representing the city of Ann Arbor, The Todd L. Levitt Law Show.


Tuesday,

June 28th, 2016

MOUNT PLEASANT, MICHIGAN

Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to join attorney Todd L. Levitt in interviewing Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin. Representative Irwin is in his third and final term in the 53rd district representing the city of Ann Arbor.

During the interview Rep. Irwin offered information regarding marijuana and its legalization status in Michigan, and the recent Senate Bill #0776 which directly impacts this November's ballot. Rep. Irwin also discussed ballot history, MiLegalize and various other issues that will impact the ballot this upcoming November.

Thank you to Representative Irwin for taking the time to join us on the Todd L. Levitt Law Show, and for your service to our wonderful state. Catch all episodes of the Todd L. Levitt Law Show on iTunes, or every Sunday morning 9:00-10:00 AM on 98.5 wups.


Listen to the full interview with Michigan State Representative below:


  


Tyler B. Webb
Senior Law Clerk, Levitt Law Firm 
Editor-In-Chief, collegelawyerblog.com