Iraq veteran no longer wants to return to CCBC after he was barred for essay on killing

Charles Whittington says he is fed up after college told him he did not provide requested psychological evaluation

January 04, 2011|By Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

An Iraq war veteran who was barred from the Community College of Baltimore County after publishing a provocative essay on killing says he no longer wants to return to the Catonsville campus.

Charles Whittington, a Baltimore resident, says he provided the psychological evaluation requested by college officials as a condition for letting him return. But in a Dec. 27 letter to Whittington, the college's vice president of enrollment management said the evaluation was "not the documentation that was requested" and that the proper records had to be mailed by a "mental health professional."

The letter from Richard Lilley said that if Whittington does not respond to the request for more complete records by Jan. 15, "we will assume that you have made the decision not to return to CCBC."

Whittington said he has decided not to resume his studies at CCBC because he is fed up with the college's requests. "I've done everything they asked me to do," he said. "And now, they want more."

The standoff began after Whittington published his essay, "War is a Drug," in the Oct. 26 edition of the campus newspaper. The piece, which graphically described his fixation on killing enemy soldiers, raised concerns for college officials. He called war a drug and wrote that killing "is something that I do not just want but something I really need so I can feel like myself."

At first, Whittington said he hoped to return to the college and would provide the requested psychological evaluation. He obtained his last Department of Veterans Affairs psychological progress report from May and a friend dropped it off to the college in late December.

President Sandra Kurtinitis said the college wants a fresh and complete psychological evaluation and that college officials thought they had made that clear to Whittington.

"We hoped the whole situation could be resolved quickly," Kurtinitis said. "As much as this has pained Mr. Whittington, we still would hope that there's a good way to resolve this that is respectful of him."

Kurtinitis said the college has not received a response to the Dec. 27 letter and could still welcome Whittington back if he provides the requested evaluation. She said the college could also help Whittington pursue his education elsewhere.

"We would like to be helpful either way," she said.

Deborah O'Doherty, a member of the nonprofit American War Mothers who has advised Whittington, said he has seemed unusually depressed lately.

"He shouldn't have had to do this in the first place," she said of the college's demand for Whittington's psychological records. "And now they want to change the rules. This is getting a bit extreme."

Whittington's last VA report, which he obtained Dec. 9 and shared with The Baltimore Sun, describes him as cooperative, pleasant, realistic and goal-oriented. It says he suffers from depression, inability to sleep and post-traumatic stress disorder, but shows no signs of suicidal or homicidal ideation.

Whittington was deployed to Iraq in late 2006 and said he left in early 2008 after a roadside explosion left him unconscious for days. The former petroleum specialist and infantryman received a medical discharge from the Army in August 2008.

On Dec. 22, O'Doherty dropped off a copy of the psychological progress report at the community college. Lilley sent his response five days later and attached a waiver form that Whittington could sign, allowing the college to request all of his medical and psychological evaluations from 2005 to the present.

"Once this document is accepted," Lilley wrote, "you may be able to complete your Fall 2010 coursework on campus as well as register for Spring 2011."

Kurtinitis said that, in fact, the college does not need all of Whittington's records dating to 2005 and would accept a fresh psychological evaluation from a licensed counselor.

In the letter, Lilley noted that Whittington had not taken the college up on its offer to help him complete his fall 2010 classes online. Whittington says it seemed impractical to complete two art classes via computer and that his frustration with the college sapped his desire to complete an English class.

Lilley said that if Whittington does not respond by Jan. 15, the college will give him copies of his academic transcript and will refund the money paid by the VA for his fall 2010 tuition and fees.

"Allow me to say that in spite of appearances," Lilley wrote, "we at CCBC wish you well in your academic endeavors whether here or elsewhere."

Whittington said he is contemplating legal action against CCBC and that he will try to continue his education this semester, possibly at Anne Arundel Community College or a vocational school.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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