Emotional Rescue of the Slackoisie

Kendra Velzen was prescribed a guinea pig for emotional support, and Grand Valley State University in Michigan agreed only to waive its policy of no pets in dorms, but refused to let her bring it to class or the cafeteria.  Per Walter Olson at Overlawyered, the college settled for $40,000, and agreed that could take the critter wherever she wanted.  After all, she needed it for emotional support.

Are you happy now?

Sociologist  Frank Furedi asks whether college students are young adults or toddlers.

Even worse – according to a new report – they are pursuing a carefree lifestyle and apparently lecturers are shirking from their duty of holding their students’ hands!

A survey of anxious school teachers condemns universities for actually believing that ‘that young people are adults and can fend for themselves’. Apparently undergraduates are biologically mature toddlers! ‘18-year-olds today are a lot less robust and worldly wise,’ warns the report.

The message communicated by this survey, and its claim that because undergraduates are far from ‘robust and worldly wise’ they need support to make a transition to university life, is that young men and young women lack the moral and intellectual resources for becoming self-sufficient people.

Maybe if we just give every entering freshman a guinea pig?

Regrettably, the constant questioning of the capacity of young people to cope with life at a university has the character of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you constantly lecture young people that life on a campus is very, very stressful and that they really need support than it is not surprising that some of them will experience life through the prism of psychological distress.

As Furedi notes, until the 1990’s, college students would have rather stuck a needle in their eye than be seen anywhere near that mommies.  Today, every professor can hear the whirl of the helicopter blade overhead as students complain that their bad grade hurts their feelings. Teacher as bully, the new frontier, except that teachers hate being called mean names too, so their foremost concern isn’t to teach, but to be liked.

Before any  butthurt genius complains that it’s all his parents’ fault for years of breeding him as a delicate flower whose every whim must be indulged and whose emotional well-being is the driving force in society, at what point does the toddler take some responsibility for his own life and emerge as a young adult?

Sadly, it’s not upon entry to law school, where emotional distress continues to manifest itself.

Yes, life is hard, and the practice of law is hard. Your emotional well-being will be tested and, sadly, will regularly fail to meet the challenge.  Is the solution to give everybody a guinea pig?

Much to the chagrin of young lawyers, they don’t find much comfort here when it comes to that bit of coddling they so desperately seek.  They really hate it when they’re called entitled and narcissistic, not because they aren’t but because it makes them feel bad. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Are you the toddler Furedi is talking about?  Are you the professor enabling the toddler?  Are the parent who steps in at the slightest hint of emotional distress so that your darling baby will never have to grow up?

Ultimately, it’s up to the the young lawyer to decide whether his  feelings matter more than anything else. You’re entitled to feel whatever you want, and the rest of the world is entitled not to give a damn about your feelings.  You can wrap yourself up in your emotions and explain why society has failed to appreciate you, care about you, treat you with the respect your feelings require, but it isn’t going to turn you into a lawyer.  And you may feel that you’re a lawyer, a wonderful lawyer, a brilliant lawyer, but it isn’t going to help you to represent a client.  Hey, clients have feelings too, you know. But then, their feelings aren’t as important as your feelings, right? At least to you.

Or maybe you really don’t want to be a toddler in a lawyer’s suit, walking around the courthouse carrying a guinea pig?  It’s entirely up to you. Neither your parents nor teachers can force you to be a toddler forever.


22 thoughts on “Emotional Rescue of the Slackoisie

  1. G Thompson

    I gather Ms Velzen the innocent snowflake that she seems to be, would probably not appreciate a Peruvian (or anyone) walking past her eating a guinea pig on a stick then. *evil grin*

    And for those wondering, they taste a bit like chicken/duck.

  2. Erika

    You could not have picked a worse possible example for the point that you were trying to make.

    “Emotional support animals” are prescribed by medical and psychological professionals for persons with severe anxiety disorders who often are unable to function in public places without the animal. Furthermore that Ms. Velzen has a such a severe anxiety disorder means that she likely has suffered horrific childhood abuse – having an emotional support animal is part of what is called “trauma informed care” for the emotional damage caused by childhood sexual abuse. Because they are used to assist and accomodate a person with a disability they qualify as service animals and are legally no different than a seeing eye dog.

    As such, the example you have shows a pretty clear example of the college violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (it probably violates Section 504 of the Rehabilation Act of 1973 as well) by not providing reasonable accomodation to a qualified person with disability. That is why the college settled – they were violating federal law by not accomodating a perscribed service animal. The fact that the service animal was prescribed for “emotional support” and not “vision” doesn’t make any difference legally – and it shouldn’t in the degree of respect given to the service animal. No one would laugh at someone who sued her college because they wouldn’t allow her to have her seeing eye dog in class. People shouldn’t laugh at Ms. Velzen either.

    By conflating providing accomodations for persons with disabilities to have service animals with providing a pet to anyone who wants one you basically have destroyed the point you are trying to make. Indeed your post ultimately comes across as making fun of persons with disabilities and attacking the reasonable accomodation requirements of the ADA. i do not believe that was your intent but it please be aware that your post comes across that way.

  3. Jim Majkowski

    I don’t purport to speak for SHG, as he is much better at it than I, but there is a generation, born before you were, that feels that certain prescriptions are handed out like business cards and to treat that as a disability others are obliged to indulge is unsettling. LSSU didn’t fork up $40K without some good reason to do it. But there are some of us, even with law degrees, who think not all hurts need redress in a courtroom.

    And no, I’m not entirely heartless. I did see Stalag 17 and did sympathize with the Joey character who withdrew into playing his ocarina ( FWIW Joey had been a law student per the story line. OTOH, I regard the sight of combat carnage as a more acceptable cause of PTSD than anxiety regarding the first day of school.

  4. Kathleen Casey

    A good spoof I thought, until it sank in that this isn’t satire. Now I can’t stop laughing.

  5. A Voice of Sanity

    May we now expect Roma Downey to remake “The Paper Chase (1973)” with all of the law students having their own pet rodents for emotional support? And how will that work when they argue, say, before the appeals court or the SCOTUS?

  6. SHG

    You would probably have a difficult time seeing this differently, but let me try. Before the world was obsessed with positive self-esteem and emotional neediness, we managed. We had days we felt better and days we felt worse, and we pushed through anyway. We didn’t spend our time wallowing in our emotions. We had too much work to do.

    Do you really think an emotional support guinea pig is the same as a seeing eye dog? I realize what the law says, but do you really?  Ask a blind person what he thinks.

  7. Pete

    I can’t help but imagine Major Chesty Puller leading the counter-attack at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, with an emotional support guinea pig squeaking with primal angst from the breast pocket of his fatigues. What would have been the fate of those anxious Marines in those terrifying circumstances, were it not for their faithful fuzzy friends?

  8. Erika

    The answer to your questions are yes – both are ways to assist people with serious disabilities to be able to function as productive members of society.

    That you even asked the question suggests that you are still misunderstanding the nature of mental illness. A serious mental health condition is a disease that requires long term treatment – it goes way beyond merely having a bad day.

    And yes, there was serious mental illness even back in your day – the difference between now and then is that then a young person suffering from a serious mental illness was likely institutionalized or kept at home receiving disability payments. That created a massive social cost. Those “good old days” weren’t so good after all.

  9. SHG

    Don’t confuse emotional neediness with mental illness. Every person who feels unhappiness today is disabled. We’ve reduced disability to a farce. They didn’t institutionalize them back when. They gave them a smack and told them to get off their ass and get to work. And they went on to have fine lives. Obessing about feelings tends to be a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    I know. Today, everybody’s got something. And they have TV commercials for anti-depressives, every kid is on ritalin and let’s not even get started with restless legs syndrome or women with leaky pipes.

  10. Ken Mackenzie

    Where I live High School graduates are 17 years old. It has been suggested the years of school should be extended so that students graduate in the year they turn 18. The argument is that the graduates will be more mature.
    My take on it is that the extra year will just delay maturity.
    If college freshmen are not ready for college then responsibility lies with the schools.

  11. G Thompson

    By conflating [the likelihood] of ‘horrific childhood abuse’ with people with severe anxiety disorders to allow them to have an inequitable ability to not have reasonable rules and/or regulations apply to them you basically have destroyed the point you are trying to make.

    There FTFY

  12. Erika

    Only if you believe that the writers of the DSM repeatedly wrote about the strong connection between sexual abuse and personality disorders in adult women solely to fill space.

  13. SHG

    Inductive reasoning is inherently flawed. You ascribe childhood sexual abuse based on someone prescribing a comfort guinea pig to a 28-year-old woman, and circle back to justify the legitimacy of a comfort animal based on the assumption. That’s one of the reasons your argument isn’t persuasive.

    But there is a second reason. Psychology is a soft science, and has changed markedly over the years. Illnesses exist, then stop existing, and new ones pop up in their place, then disappear. Treatment is one thing one day, another thing another day. We are at a moment in time when society is emotionally overindulgent, and every feeling takes on monumental importance. We’ve gone through this cycle before (when Victorian women had the vapors) and emerged to realize that human development requires us to stop wallowing in emotion and grow beyond it.

    So today, we wallow in emotion again, and drug and guinea pig dealers are going to town on it.

  14. Erika

    Oh i know, i’ve heard this story before -its just another part of the claim that you had to walk 10 miles to school in deep snow uphill all the way (in both directions). And you know when i heard it – it was when i was a baby and my grandparents generation was complaining about y’all.

    You might also be advised to realize that perhaps there is a good reason why young people today have so much stress – i can’t remember a time when our nation’s tax code and priorities haven’t been slanted for the sole benefit of the ultra rich at the expense of everyone else. When i was a child, it was easy to ignore – sure entire southern mill towns and midwestern industrial cities were being devestated as manufacturing shifted to other countries but it didn’t effect us people with upper middle class highly educated parents. It was taking place elsewhere to others.

    Of course, now that we are adults the economic havoc that your generation and your parent’s generation has caused through a desire to have quality government services and low taxes has spread so that it is even hurting the highly skilled and highly educated. We are being asked to work harder for less and less certain reward as even a relatively formerly safe industry like law is being decimated. The real story of the unemployment of new law school graduates is as much one of the disappearance of entry level government jobs as oversupply. There were too many law school graduates during the employment boom but no one really noticed because the economy was booming.

    its really a wonder that we all aren’t taking medication – especially since the pharmaceutical industry has spent billions to promote their products. And why not – they told our parents that the way to assure your kids future is to push them harder to achieve in education and boom – you did that and we did achieve and even us with good jobs are still struggling with the stress of knowing that even the best job around can disappear overnight. And savings, right not with the student loan load we got.

    Of course, if you were actually informed about trends in therapy and psychology you would know that the use of support animals for emotion support is the complete opposite of the pushing of drugs in commercials. Indeed it is part of a movement to actually provide people therapy without using medication or using less medication.

    If you are worried about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry in making up new theories on why people need expensive medication (and you should be, the new upcoming DSM-V is going to contain some real doozies) you shouldn’t be laughing at emotional support animals. They came about through a movement by people with mental illness and people who care about them to actually find out what works for the individual rather than the one size fits all approach of drugs.

    Of course then you’d actually have to know what you are talking about and wouldn’t be able to take a cheap shot at my generation

  15. Erika

    Emotional support animals have come across from peer advocacy and have absolutely nothing to do with drugs – indeed they are part of a movement to provide treatment and therapy without drugs.

    You have a quality website which has quality writing and ideas about a host of interesting legal issues – you are doing great work in exposing and trying to fix the problems in our shared profession. Please don’t dilude the quality of your website and thoughts and ideas by attacking ideas that you fail to have even the most basic understanding of. Of course, i’m still going to read you because you really are doing great work 🙂

  16. SHG

    We’re allowed to disagree about things. Is there anyone with whom you agree about everything?

    I just don’t want you to be so upset over the disagreement that you’re forced to take comfort in a guinea pig. 

  17. SHG

    Some new ideas are good. Some aren’t so good. Some are pretty awful. One of the things you learn as you get to be an old person is that things look differently years down the road. Things that looked pretty clear at the time look awfully silly later.

    Your generation has a great deal of stress. One of my deepest concerns is that instead of fighting it, you’re generation has been raised to embrace it and use it as an excuse for failure and inertia. Yes, it’s tough. So are you going to push through it and achieve or spend your life holding a guinea pig and telling people about your feelings?

  18. Todd E.

    I remember reading a psychology study back in the 90’s which stated that emotional maturity was being pushed back further and further. By the late 90’s, they weren’t really seeing maturity and responsibility in folks until they hit their late 20’s.

    Currently, it seems more like the early 30’s. The entire descriptor for Generation Y seems to be “People who just don’t care enough to bother, who will quite on a moment’s notice if they feel bad about things, etc.”

    Of course, since our schools are now mostly filled with kids who don’t see any point in trying to pass or learn, this is probably a relatively accurate descriptor. But what did we give up in our society that removed any drive to grow up, to see maturity as worthwhile?

  19. SHG

    My empirical take is that Gen Y gets the benefits of maturity without the responsibility. They got trophies anyway. Why bother running the race? Why bother running hard to win? Especially when mommy told them they don’t have to run if it hurts their feelings not to win.

    The question now is when will they, as a generation, decide to get over it and grow up anyway.

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