Campus Reform reports that a former active-duty Marine who served two combat tours in Iraq and is diagnosed with combat-related PTSD was suspended from Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi after he requested to meet with a non-Muslim counselor in the school’s Office of Counseling and Disability Services. Rawls has been diagnosed with several combat-related disabilities including lung disease and post traumatic stress disorder.
On May 25, Campus Reform published a story about Jeremy Rawls, a student veteran at Mississippi College who alleged that the college’s decision to suspend and label him a threat to himself and his peers came after he requested to meet with a non-Muslim counselor in the school’s Office of Counseling and Disability Services. Campus Reform reporter Gabriella Morrongiello was first made aware of the allegations by an MC student familiar with the situation.
After speaking with the college and Rawls, new documentation has been released that calls into question reasoning presented in the original story. The Muslim counselor that Rawls allegedly met with was a “student intern,” according to Dr. Bill Townsend, Vice President for Advancement and Legal Counsel to MC’s president. The details of Rawls’ exchange with that intern remain unclear.
Truth RevoltIn addition to serving in the Marine Corps, Jeremy Rawls worked as a private contractor in Afghanistan and was a member of the Army National Guard for seven years. He was on active-duty in Iraq during the Second Battle of Fallujah—named the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War—and says he’s lost many friends to suicide due to PTSD.
Rawls, who is pursuing a degree in English with a minor in education, was originally paired with a female counselor in traditional Muslim dress during his initial visit. “It’s not that I didn’t want to participate,” Rawls said. “I didn’t want to traumatize her and it wasn’t a good environment to be talking about [my disabilities] with that specific person.”
Since February, the senior has struggled to maintain good grades and reclaim the work-study position he’d procured through the local VA after administrators suspended him and labeled him a threat to himself and other students.
In an email notifying Rawls of his suspension, Associate Dean of Students Jonathan Ambrose said administrators and the Student Intervention Team have a due diligence in not only the protection of yourself, but also the campus community as a whole from potential harm or the threat there of. You are not permitted to be on campus for any reason or attend class during the duration of the Interim Suspension unless you have written permission.
According to Rawls, the school never spoke with “a single professor” about his grades or behavior prior to suspending and subsequently removing him from the work-study position. “To have been a marine and to tell us we’re a threat… that’s actually a compliment,” said Rawls. “But telling me I’m a threat to others was extremely offensive.”
Rawls said his attempts to meet with staff members to discuss changing counselors were repeatedly ignored until recently. “Their response was suspending me pending a mental evaluation which I provided and then they put me on further restriction and a reintegration program,” Rawls said.
Last Thursday Rawls met with administrators in an effort to begin resolving the matter and to ensure that he is able to fully participate in academics and extracurricular activities in the coming school year. “They asked me what I wanted and I told them I want to be a normal student and I want my job back,” Rawls said.
“The college itself is very supportive, there is just an ignorance toward veterans with PTSD and they are demonized so much by the media which led to confusion about what they [MC administrators] were dealing with,” Rawls said. The committed student and proud veteran believes his school’s actions reflect the need for “cultural change.”
“If they’ll do this to me, and I’m one of the most outspoken veterans on campus, they’ll definitely do this to others,” Rawls said.