The Empathy Problem

One former student in a counseling program at Webster University, in St. Louis, is suing his erstwhile institution. He argues that they kicked him out of the program (essentially) because he was a jerk.

According to an article by Jennifer Mann in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

A former Webster University student who was studying to be a family counselor says in a lawsuit that he was dismissed from a master’s degree program after it was determined that he lacked empathy.

The suit, which claims up to $1 million in losses and seeks at least $2 million in punitive damages, alleges the school dismissed him quickly rather than help him improve his empathy to complete the field work required for graduating.

The former graduate student, David Schwartz, earned mostly As in his courses at Webster, though he apparently received “no credit” for the section of his program that required him to “apply his class work to a real-world counseling setting.”

Now obviously someone who lacks empathy would be a really bad counselor but one would think the school would have considered suitability back when it admitted Schwartz into the program.

Schwartz also alleges that his dismissal curiously occurred right after “he wrote an anonymous letter to the dean criticizing a professor’s teaching methods and noting the romantic relationship between that professor and an administrator.”

Hmmm. While he’s right that dismissing him for sending such a note would be improper, a letter like that also serves as a fairly clear indication of his lack of empathy, and just plain judgment.

Schwartz, 44, apparently quit his job as computer help desk technician to enroll in the counseling program. He now has no graduate degree and is more than $70,000 in debt due to Webster.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer