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Webster U. Student Gets the Boot for Lacking Empathy


August 30, 2011
by Suada Kolovic
David Schwartz was a typical adult student returning to school to pursue a different passion. After years as a computer help desk technician, Schwartz decided to head back to Webster University to become a family counselor. While in the master’s degree program, he excelled in his course work, earning all A’s and only one C, according to a school transcript. So why was he abruptly dismissed from the program on March 14 after he received a “no credit” for failing to successfully complete a practicum? A lack of empathy.

David Schwartz was a typical adult student returning to school to pursue a different passion. After years as a computer help desk technician, Schwartz decided to head back to Webster University to become a family counselor. While in the master’s degree program, he excelled in his course work, earning all A’s and only one C, according to a school transcript. So why was he abruptly dismissed from the program on March 14 after he received a “no credit” for failing to successfully complete a practicum? A lack of empathy.

Schwartz is suing Webster for up to $1 million in losses and at least $2 million in punitive damages. He claims that the university dismissed him unexpectedly instead of helping to improve his empathy in order to complete the field work required for graduating. And he’s not alone: According to the American Counseling Association code of ethics, which is posted on Webster’s website, counselor education programs are required to provide remedial support for students, such as an advisory committee. That wasn’t the case for Schwartz, who says he would have welcomed it. "I'm at an age now, at 44, where I'm committed to what I'm doing professionally," he said. "I'm more than willing to improve."

But that’s not the entire story. Schwartz claims that there’s an underlying factor to his abrupt dismissal. He also alleges that he was deemed a poor performer after he wrote an anonymous letter to the dean criticizing a professor’s teaching methods and a romantic relationship between said professor and an administrator. There’s a lot more to the story here.

Do you think that Schwartz’s dismissal was a direct response to his not-so-anonymous letter? Is it the school’s responsibility to notify students that they’re unfit for certain occupations or help them through their inadequacies? Let us know what you think.

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