This is an account submitted by a student. The student's identity and identity of all parties involved are kept anonymous to protect them. The view presented in this article, as in all opinions section articles, is not necessarily the view of The Whitworthian or anyone affiliated with The Whitworthian. This account is only meant to give voice to a student's experience.
On March 15, 2018, I had the opportunity to attend the Third Annual Diversity Monologues at Whitworth University. Hearing the stories and voices of my fellow students inspired me to speak up and tell my own Whitworth experience. Upon arrival I wanted the full Whitworth experience. I got involved in clubs and became a regular at chapel. I attended ASWU meetings to stay up to date on campus events. I branched out to students outside my usual circle and gained new friends. They treated me with kind-heartedness and respect and I respected them back. This was a campus I could call home.
This all changed January 2018, when I began to get harassed by my professor. I had never experienced a situation like this. At Whitworth, I received nothing but good words from past instructors. I was eager to take this class. I arrived early and sat in the front so I wouldn’t miss anything. I engaged in classroom discussions. But on January 8, the harassment began. The instructor began to berate me. He graded my work days before it was due days. He called me out in class and said I was “lazy with a bad work ethic.” One day I got up to obtain a ruler and the instructor walked over to my seat and began inspecting my work. When I returned the instructor told me my project was "all wrong." When I asked why the instructor said it needed to be more centered. I explained to the instructor that this was the reason I had obtained the ruler. The instructor would not acknowledge my response and told me to “throw away” the whole project. I said I was still working on it and would fix the issue. The instructor then accused me of being “resistant” to them. I was not being resistant to critiques, but said that telling me to throw away work that I was unfinished, was not a critique, but simply mean. The instructor said we would “continue this discussion on a later date” and walked away. Students around me seemed shocked and uncomfortable with the exchange.
The next day, I noticed an extra chair pulled up beside my seat. The Instructor sat down and asked how much time I spent on my project the night prior. I told them I spent the night on it and they said that wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to start an argument. I told the instructor I liked the class and I wanted them to like me, but they said they still said I was being resistant to learn. I made it known that I was uncomfortable, and the instructor told me not to respond, and that I would fail if I didn’t work harder on the project. Throughout class the instructor made confusing comments such as I was drinking water too loudly, or that I wasn’t allowed to be on my phone during break time, even though other students didn’t receive similar comments. The instructor even made underhanded comments such as, “We don’t want to use colors like a dirty, ugly brown. It would always be better to use a beautiful white.” The instructor made eye contact with me during these comments. I began to realize that this was about more than him just not liking my work. People don’t just make comments like that freely. It was clear that he had begun to racially target me as a person of color. After class I met with a diversity, equity & inclusion faculty member for assistance. They said they were highly disturbed at the conversations that went on between the instructor and me.
The next day, I went to speak to the instructor before class because I needed help printing an assignment I had finished. The printer I had been using was malfunctioning. They told me they were unable to help me, because they were not currently teaching. This struck me as odd, because my other Whitworth instructors had been helpful before and after class. The instructor said the only way I could get help printing was to go to the HUB, but doing so would make me late for class. Later instructor said my printed project did not meet the criteria. I said I had asked for help, but since they refused to help me that was the result. The instructor then stopped teaching and told me to meet them in their office. During the conversation I said I thought pausing in the middle of a lecture for a private conversation seemed odd and I asked if it could be postponed until break or after class. The instructor responded, “No, we are going to have a talk and we are going to have it now!” I left the door open because I felt uncomfortable. They again called me lazy and resistant. I could see my classmates across the hall whispering and looking confused as to why the instructor left the class unattended to talk to me. I told the instructor this conversation was ill-timed and we both needed to get back to class. They eventually agreed.
A few days later I woke up with a flu and a migraine, but went to class anyway, because I feared falling behind. After an hour and a half of class, I realized I was too sick. I told the instructor I needed to go to the doctor. They asked if I was going to come back and I said that I would when I was able. I was sick until the following Tuesday. The next Wednesday I went straight to the instructor’s office before class to turn in my work. The instructor accused me of lying about being sick. Even though other students were out ill, I was the only one accused of being a liar. I reiterated to the instructor that we had made an agreement when I got sick, that as long as I turned in my work before the end of the course, that would be acceptable. Despite the previous agreement, the instructor refused to accept any of my assignments.
During this conversation, the instructor suddenly said, “Don’t talk, walk with me!” I asked why, and the instructor repeated the previous line. They brought me into another faculty member’s office. The instructor said they would not speak to me any further until a faculty member I contacted earlier about the issue was present. I responded, “You are my teacher, I am your student, please just accept my work, that’s all you have to do.” The instructor became agitated during the conversation and slammed the chair they were sitting in back against the wall and stormed out of the room. After they came back, they told me they would call campus security to have me removed. I asked, “Are you telling me that if I showed up to your class, you would not teach the rest of the class and just call me out?” The Instructor replied, “Yes!” I replied back to the instructor, “You are my teacher, I am a student, I am on campus in this class. There’s no reason why I wouldn’t go to your class”. The instructor repeated that if I showed up they would call campus security or the authorities, and that they were no longer my teachers. I contacted four faculty members about the ordeal. They all said they were “shocked and disgusted that this happened.”
After the last conversation I never returned to class. The situation was out of my control and diversity, equity & inclusion members were not as helpful as I thought they would be. I made multiple attempts to ask for help but was turned away. They said they had no wish to be involved. Despite being abandoned by the diversity, equity & inclusion faculty I believe they are good people. They play an important role in the university and are here to help students handle situations that can’t be handled alone. But unfortunately, even though they want to make the school more welcoming to students of color they don’t always provide them help when they face racial issues. I made my family aware of the situation I was in and we decided to write the school a letter detailing the events of harassment I went through in the class and how I wished to have a peaceful and just conclusion. The letter was sent on January 30. In the last three months all faculty members involved have gone silent regarding the situation. I have not returned to the building that the class was held in. Faculty members deleted their side of the emails in threads on Outlook and the school has done its best to mask the events as if they never occurred. The Instructor is still on campus teaching class.
This is my last semester on campus. I do not look at the university the same way as I did when I arrived. I realized that the faculty values making sure the university keeps a good name with incoming students and the public over addressing problems the school faces regarding diversity and inclusion.
How many times have situations like this happened at Whitworth? Only the administration knows. I write this to spread awareness that although Whitworth claims to be a university that preaches a commitment to diversity, this is not the reality. What it presents is different than what it practices. At universities like Whitworth, student safety should be the priority. Situations like this shouldn’t disrupt a student’s education. They should be handled in the correct manner. Readers might find it hard to believe that a situation like this could happen at Whitworth, but I ask you to put your bias aside and realize that what happened to me can happen at any institution. I am writing this because I do not want another student to go through an ordeal such as this, or even one half this bad. We can spend weeks on end talking about why this wrong happened and how Whitworth can rid itself of problems like this, but solving these situations isn’t difficult. Instructors like this shouldn't be allowed to keep teaching. I want to thank the current students, alumni and brave faculty that I contacted in recent months who have helped me deal with this situation. It is with the utmost appreciation that I thank you for your support. I also want to thank those that participated in the Diversity Monologues for giving me the courage to speak about my experience. We must all challenge ignorance with intelligence and courage. The power of our stories is significant for change. Do not mask the problems you face, bring them to the light.