So I’ve been thinking of the story I'm about to share a lot, what with being a Swattie (class of ’89) and having taught there back in 1992-2000 and with Swat being in the news because of a certain Philadelphia magazine article. And as I mentioned, I’ve had former students and others contact me about their experiences on college campuses now. So, I share even though this isn’t totally my story.
I had an early morning departure for an ultimate frisbee tournament
on Saturday and, leaving my girlfriend’s room, swung by my dorm room to
pick up my cleats which I had forgotten. I walked in trying to be very
quiet and discovered my roommate wide awake, dressed, showered, and
studying while drinking a cup of coffee. Even for Swarthmore, Satruday morning 7AM studying is
“I had a night”, he said.
It turns out a guy on our co-ed hall, who, for the purposes of this
story, we shall call the Viking, had drunk heavily the night before.
Roommate had left the door unlocked (as many of us did) and awoke to the
sound of running water. The Viking, stark naked, had opened our fridge
and was peeing into it, under the impression perhaps, that anything
white was a urinal. My roommate tried to dissuade the Viking from
continuing to pee and was unsuccessful. My roommate then, I think, hid
under the covers, hoping the Viking would go away. Instead, the stark
naked Viking climbed into bed with the roommate, and declared “shut up and
move over”. My roommate was out of the room like a shot, pounding on
the RAs door. The RA, a woman, tried to wake the Viking who was now
naked and passed out in my roommate’s bed. Eventually they found one of
the Viking’s teammates who lived on our hall, said teammate physically carried the
Viking back to the Valhalla (aka the Viking's room) and dumped him atop the bed.
Roomate filed charges with the college. The Viking, who was already
in trouble for punching somebody at a party and some other things I'm not totally sure of, got
Now this was 25 years ago but I think the incident is telling for a
number of reasons. 1) My roommate knew that people would help him. 2)
The college was ready to go after the Viking 3) My roommate was the
kind of guy who had already cleaned the fridge by the time I got to the
dorm that morning. And it was my fridge. Everybody was going to
believe his version of events. 4) My roommate told people that I had
left the night before for the tournament, because he didn’t think it was
anybody’s business that I was at girlfriends’ dorm room all night. I’m
not still not sure if he was protecting her honor, mine, or just thought
it was nobody’s business even though we'd been a serious couple for well over a year.
So the point is, as a guy, roommate felt pretty sure that a response would
be quick, safe and effective. There are lots of women who are convinced
that any response will be neither quick nor safe nor effective. That would be Anonymous at Columbia and Anonymous at Harvard and Michaela Cross and so many others. Too many others. So
sure, you can say “why are you letting him spoon?” but the answer is
“because I thought it was the safest option because all other options
looked like guaranteed horrible outcomes so I gambled hoping for the best not the
worst.” Too many, do this because it's a rational decision. So what is to be done?
Changing the reality that (and the perception) that reporting
is worse than surviving is job one right now.
This was originally published in slightly different form as a comment at Lawyers, Guns and Money.