Editorial: Allow emotional support animals in dorm rooms


By Melanie MannThe New York Times wrote an article about the ongoing debate on university campuses: Should college students’ emotional support animals be permitted in their dorms? The article cites various students with mental health problems who benefited from living with emotional support animals and can be found at the following url: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/05/us/four-legged-roommates-help-with-the-stresses-of-campus-life.html?_r=0.
 
Responses to this article in the comments section, of course, put the public’s ignorance about mental health on display with a barrage of “likes” to reinforce these distasteful opinions:
“Simple solution: Expulsions for those who can’t hack it at college.”
 
“If you were wondering how difficult it will be for us to be taken over by Islamic radicals, wonder no more.”
 
“You would not believe how infantilized these young people are being conditioned. Some of them are working the system for an easier time, sure, but the real villains are the universities and their Americans with Disabilities administrators.”

 
The above quotations provide a small glimpse at the filth that was plastered all over the comments section. I’m assuming these commenters have never read a single body of research detailing the range of benefits offered by emotional support animals, which includes alleviation of depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as reduced risk of suicide. While I’m at it, I’m also going to assume most of these commenters don’t struggle with any mental health problems personally, because surely someone who has experienced the despair of depression or the panic from anxiety would have more empathy for those who simply want a pet to be there for them at their darkest moments.
 
The Americans with Disabilities Act does require that residential spaces with “no pets” policies make an exception for emotional support animals. University dorms are among the only housing facilities not compliant with this policy. However, what bothers me more than the fact that students with mental disabilities are not permitted to receive this basic level of comfort is the fact that the general public so readily takes up arms against those who are suffering with mental health problems. If you have never been so depressed it nearly killed you, received a failing grade due to lack of class attendance because of a panic attack during school hours, or reached out for help for a serious mental health problem only to be judged by your loved ones, then you don’t get to decide when people with mental illness are being too “entitled” for your liking.