Suspended NMU student grateful for support

MARQUETTE — A student under suspension at Northern Michigan University has expressed gratitude for support he has received from fellow students.

NMU on Thursday suspended junior Dominick Dotson for allegedly violating a policy by sending out a survey through Google Forms to students asking how the university could improve the ways it handles mental health issues.

Dotson said in a social media post, “I am not sure how many of you know, but yesterday over 700 students responded with ways the campus could handle mental health better. Now they are suspending me for shedding a light on this issue without hearing my side of the story.”

He added, “Mental health is not something to be taken lightly, or something to be slipped into an email with tragic news and COVID rates.”

In a message to The Mining Journal on social media, Dotson commented on the student protest that took place on campus on Friday to support him.

“I think that the student protest was very thoughtful,” Dotson said. “The situation currently at hand began when I sent out an anonymous mental health survey and I was reprimanded by the school for doing so.”

Dotson indicated he does not want to go into detail about why he sent the survey since he still is under investigation.

However, he noted, “I believe that as a whole, when it comes to mental health, there is a lot that can be improved on campus.”

Administration reacts

Dotson, in a social media post, shared an image of a letter he said was sent to him by NMU officials. In the letter, dated Thursday, Christine Greer, assistant vice president and dean of students, writes that “due to the seriousness of alleged Student Code violations” on Wednesday, she was temporarily suspending him from NMU until all charges are adjudicated.

“Your eligibility to return to NMU in the future will not be considered until all Student Code issues are resolved,” Greer wrote.

She noted in the letter that during a temporary suspension, a student shall be denied access to NMU housing; to the campus, including classes; and/or all other NMU activities or privileges for which the student might otherwise be eligible.

The circumstances with Dotson, though, are different.

“With the semester ending in approximately three weeks, I am allowing you to remain in your campus apartment and attend your Winter 2022 classes until the Student Code charges against you are adjudicated,” Greer said. “If there are any further alleged violations of the Student Code during the conduct process, these privileges will be rescinded immediately.”

Derek Hall, chief marketing officer for NMU, declined to comment on the specifics of the situation due to privacy issues.

However, Hall described the general disciplinary process in a statement.

“The process is that a student is notified of an alleged violation and an investigation process starts to determine specific violations and any subsequent actions are determined after that,” he said.

Hall did not know the timeline for the review.

The NMU Human Subjects Research Policy Manual says, “The Northern Michigan University Institutional Review Board has institutional responsibility for use of human subjects in research under the auspices of, or utilizing the students, personnel or facilities of Northern Michigan University.

“All projects must be accomplished in accord with this policy, and all projects covered by this policy can be undertaken only after appropriate approval and may be continued only in accordance with the terms of that approval, only so long as that approval remains in effect. Changes in a project, or continuation of the project following adverse or untoward occurrences during the project, are also subject to review and approval.”

NMU’s previous mental health policies

This isn’t the first time NMU has encountered an issue involving a mental health situation.

In 2018, NMU reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division that stemmed from an incident in which a student told a fellow student she was at risk for suicide.

The agreement arose from a complaint filed with the Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section that alleged NMU discriminated against an individual with a disability in violation of Title II under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

It was alleged that NMU threatened to “dis-enroll” a student and require her to undergo a psychological assessment and sign a behavioral agreement after she sent a chat message to another student in which she said she had a major depressive disorder and her doctors were concerned she was at risk for suicide.

It also was alleged the behavioral agreement prohibited the student from engaging in any discussion about her thoughts or actions with her friends, dorm residents or other students.

The Justice Department identified three other current or former NMU students who alleged the university discriminated against them in violation of Title II, requiring them to meet with the dean of students or associate dean of students, who threatened them with disciplinary action for sharing suicidal or self-destructive thoughts with other students; undergo mandatory psychological assessments to maintain enrollment; abide by certain conditions to maintain enrollment; and/or involuntarily withdraw from NMU.

The students alleged NMU took these actions according to its Policy Relating to Student Self-Destructive Behavior.

In its investigation, the Justice Department determined that policy did not reflect or impose legitimate safety requirements within Title II, and that adverse action was taken against NMU students with mental health disabilities who did not pose an actual risk of self-harm.

Hall said procedures and practices were changed in compliance with federal requirements.

Resources available

According to the NMU website at nmu.edu, individual and group mental health counseling is free to enrolled students, with consultation also free to the campus community. The website contains the Student Guide to Counseling and Consultation Services, which is geared toward students questioning whether NMU services are right for them, advising students on how they can make the most of their counseling experience, and informing members of the NMU community — who are concerned about a student — how they can make a referral or obtain a consultation.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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