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Letter to the Editor Re: MIT Admissions Policy and Students with Depression

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As the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, I am writing to express my shock and dismay about the comments made by MIT admissions Dean Marilee Jones in your article on depression. She says that she wants to enroll “emotionally resilient” students at MIT. “So many kids are coming in, feeling the need to be perfect, and so many kids are medicated now,” she says. “If you need a lot of pharmaceutical support to get through the day, you’re not a good match for a place like MIT.” Many people require interventions of various kinds to function well in the world, and those who have found those means are to be praised for their courage in seeking and using them, not disparaged for their imperfections. “Emotional resilience” is a quality that some people have on their own and some people achieve; it is not of lower value because it is the fruit of labor or medication. The function of a university is to foster learning and growth, and it is the charter responsibility of MIT to admit those students who will be great scientists and scholars, and to help them realize their potential. There are some people whose emotional fragility makes them dysfunctional: those, by and large, are the ones who should be on medication but are not. Cutting the brilliant but vulnerable people out of our universities would relegate most geniuses to the periphery. Jones would not say publicly that MIT was not a place for diabetics who need insulin or for people with bodily injuries who need a wheelchair. She should know that prejudice against people with mental illness is not only immoral and cruel but also, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, illegal. How awful to be a student struggling with depression at MIT and to read her loathsome remarks. Jones’s attitude will lead to suicide, not prevent it.