When the Staff is Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Marc Dehoorne

Contributing Writer

 

Content Warning: mentions of sexual assault.

I have massive respect for faculty and administrative staff involved with Student Life. Some jobs are innately more difficult than others, and college students can be rather difficult to deal with at times. Staff like Carly Jones and Marjorie Shamp have incredibly difficult jobs and very little assistance to effectively assume the full responsibilities of their stations. That being said, my experience with [one member of staff] from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities was ostracizing and has permanently changed my perspective of how staff see their student body. 

I was cited for violating quiet hours, neglecting to discourage underage and dangerous drinking behavior and hosting an unregistered event on the night of Sept. 8. My fellow housemates and I admitted to the violations and accepted all consequences that were to come our way. At the end of our meeting, [the staff member in question] verbally asserted that based on our meeting, [they] did not think it necessary for any member of our house to enroll in an alcohol safety and responsibilities course. It seemed as if we had nothing to fear. Two days after our hearing, I was the sole member of my house to be issued any formal punishment. While I fully anticipated having consequences for my involvement in the merrymaking, I did not expect to be singled-out by the school. To be clear, I am not the only member of my house who is over 21. During our hearing, [the staff member] articulated an Ohio state law which pertains to alcohol-related social events. The law states that the owners of any property become responsible for all individuals consuming alcohol on said property. By issuing me exclusive punishment for the actions of my house, [they] implied that I am the owner of the estate. I never thought I would have to say this, but I do not own any property at The College of Wooster. I pay for room and board to use a room in a program house. Eight other people live in my program house, and they reside in Lewis House on their own volition. I was not responsible for their choice of residence and should not be held responsible for their actions. I am not a parent; I am a student.

 Some of the residents of Lewis House are members of the lacrosse team. During our interview, [the staff member] commented on the involvement of my housemates on the team stating, “You are some upstanding individuals!” This comment, coupled with my exclusive punishment, made me feel that the actions of [this staff member] were nothing but personal. [Their] behavior was unprofessional. I will not be held solely responsible for the actions of an entire house. I submitted an appeal to this decision. What is strange is that the rest of my housemates received their punishments (which were equal to mine in every facet) only after my appeal; that is, my housemates received their punishments a full 96 hours after I was issued mine. The original case presented involved the entirety of Lewis House, specifically, “The gentlemen of Lewis House.” The names of all the Lewis House residents (save one) were involved in the same case, and somehow we still received unclear signals from the administration. [The staff member’s] inability to handle a single case properly should be an indicator of [their] ineptitude for handling [their] professional responsibilities in this role.

During my conduct hearing, [the staff member] highlighted statements within a security report filed by the officer that shut down our party at Lewis House. Major details within the report (specifically pertaining to party population and our response to the Campus Safety Officer) were identified by the members of my house to be demonstrably false. The report specifically states that the officer saw about 150 people at the property upon arrival, and when he told people to leave, only five students did so. In truth, no more than 80 students came to Lewis House during the course of the entire night. Additionally, before the Campus Safety Officer stepped out of their vehicle, about half of the students at Lewis House who were attending the party fled the scene. Even though I was inebriated at this point in the party, watching five people leave a party is considerably different than the mass exodus of people I witnessed leave the property of Lewis House. It is impossible even for an inebriated individual to mistake around 40 people for five. When this was pointed out during our conduct hearing, zero consideration was given to our account of the events. It seemed to me that [the staff member] took the security report as gospel and predetermined our guilt before our hearing. There is a greater issue here involving how Campus Safety is regulated when reporting their interactions with students, but the fact that there are zero consequences for Safety Officers making false claims as a result of stretching the truth is incredibly dangerous to us students. Their word is gospel to some people in administrative positions, and we the students directly suffer consequences from the malpractice of our authority figures. We, as the student body of Wooster, should not have to defend the basis of fact. I am fortunate that I am a straight, white male. I cannot imagine what might have occurred to me if I was a member of the LGBTQ+, QTPOC or ethnic minority demographics on campus.  

Our ability to socialize with our peers has certainly been mitigated. While we have plenty of opportunity to interact with our peers in-class, we are more than students. We are multidimensional individuals whose aggregate experiences create beautifully complex individuals that constitute the student body of The College of Wooster. That is what KEPT me at this school – my peers are the reason I have stayed and why I love this school. It’s just ironic to see the administration advertise this place as a utopia for “Independents Minds Working Together” and then expect us to be reduced to academic machines. I know people here, like me, love to learn, but most of our learning happens outside the classroom. There are no books about how to be an adult. We have to learn through experience, our successes and our failures. Socialization is the primary catalyst to understanding our peers. Infringing on our opportunities to socialize results in a disconnected student body. The College of Wooster is supposed to be a place for safe learning and the sharing of ideas, but that can’t happen effectively when student-to-student interactions are limited exclusively to the classroom. I would very much love to see this campus hate-free, but reducing our social opportunities directly mitigates our ability to understand our fellow students.  

There is a more sinister issue here, however. As part of [their] professional responsibilities in this role, [the staff member] is also responsible for hearing cases of sexual assault on campus. Obviously, our safety as students around alcohol is important, but so is the safety of students around other students. It is disgusting to see majority of [this staff member’s] resources be allocated toward cracking down on alcohol consumption when there are still so many cases of sexual assault occurring on campus. Last time I checked, it was not illegal for people to party. Why, then, is partying met with more resistance and punishment than the literal crime of rape? Having to be in the same geographic location (or even classroom) as one’s rapist is an incredibly stressful and unhealthy predicament. In events like this, students will never feel safe and certainly will not continue to go to a school that doesn’t implement consequences for literal criminals.  [The staff member] certainly pushes [their] personal agenda onto the student body without regard to the visceral trauma caused during events of sexual assault. I personally believe major changes are required considering the station of [this staff member] in such an important role within our campus community