About a year ago, I checked myself into Bryn Mawr Hospital because I was experiencing severe manic symptoms as part of my bipolar disorder. When I got out of the hospital, the Dean’s Office together with Dr. Bazelon (a psychiatrist affiliated with the college) decided that I would not be allowed to live on campus for the rest of the semester, even though I was very vocal about wanting to return to school. The college did not respect my basic wants and needs at a time when I was very vulnerable and needed their support more than ever. While all this was happening, it was unclear who was actually making these decisions about whether I could stay at college, what they were based on, and what I needed to do or say to be able to stay in school. How was I supposed to advocate for myself when I didn’t even know what was happening?
I know now that these decisions are made between Dr. Bazelon and the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office ultimately gets to decide whether a student will be placed on medical leave or not, however, they always follow Dr. Bazelon’s medical recommendation. The fact that it is ultimately the Dean’s decision takes responsibility off of Dr. Bazelon, as she does not have to take credit for her key role.
Supposedly these decisions are based on whether the student is a danger to themselves or others. But that’s bullshit. Any student that is being discharged from the hospital is no longer a danger to themself, or else the hospital staff would not discharge them. Based on a disability rights perspective, the college is breaking the law by forcing students off campus. Disabled students have a legal right to campus housing unless the college can show that they are a danger to themselves or others– which, as I stated earlier, any student being discharged from the hospital is not.
It’s not just an issue of disability rights, though that is an important lens through which to view it. It’s also an emotional issue. It hurts like hell to be told that you can’t come back to campus. You’re essentially being told that your illness doesn’t belong at college. You’re being told that some levels of illness are okay, but you’re too sick, or too crazy, or the wrong kind of crazy. Bryn Mawr can say they support diversity but when it comes down to it, they are hostile towards disabled students.