Reflections on a Freshman Year at Dickinson

Drew Kaplan ‘20, Associate Opinion Editor

Last week, president Neil Weissman sent an email to the Dickinson community concerning an investigation into the college by the Department of Education on alleged discriminatory conduct. In his email, Weissman said “Dickinson College is committed to a campus free from discrimination on any basis. Nothing is more important than the welfare of our students.” He concluded with the phrase “we reaffirm our commitment to building a community of trust and respect for all members of our community and to ensuring that our policies and practices support that goal.” These statements cannot be farther from the truth.

I have been here at Dickinson for less than one year, and in my short time, I’ve noticed a disturbing series of events that have impacted me greatly. In the beginning of my first semester, my former roommate was accused of selling marijuana. I don’t know if he was or not, but DPS and ResLife conducted a raid on our room. I was threatened by the ResLife employee who helped conduct the raid. There was one night last semester I was sitting behind my dorm; a DPS officer approached from behind; without warning he shined a flashlight in my face. He had been convinced I was up to no good because I was sitting outside at night. I also had another student threaten to murder me in my sleep because he thought I was a narc.

In the beginning of this semester, I authored an opinion piece questioning Dickinson’s stance on alcohol and marijuana policy. A few days after it was published, a ResLife employee approached me in the SNAR and made thinly veiled threats to me because of it. She felt that publishing my opinion was not in my best interest, and that it would be best if I ceased.

At one point, someone who works in Student Life even said to me, and I quote, “I want to suspend you.” An administrator of the college said me to my face, “I want to suspend you.”  And this is only what has happened to me personally.

I have a friend who was allegedly caught smoking marijuana. He denied it, and though no marijuana was found, the DPS officer involved gave my friend a choice; either confess to having smoked marijuana, or he would call CPD. He confessed, fearful of what may happen if CPD became involved. I have had many other friends who have been suspended for minor drug offenses, either having or smoking marijuana. Yet, I know others who have been caught with huge amounts of alcohol, and faced no sanction.

I cannot claim to be a perfect person, and I have done some things I regret. But when I read an email from the President of the College saying “we reaffirm our commitment to building a community of trust and respect for all members of our community,” it rings hollow. I do not feel I have been respected by the administration of the college, nor do I feel I am trusted by or can trust the administration, and I have heard countless stories of the college employing bully tactics and threats to enforce its rules. If this is how the college ensures our welfare, then I am at a loss for words.

When I first visited Dickinson over a year ago, I loved the school. I envisioned myself loving all four years I would spend here. However, my enthusiasm has soured. I cannot bring myself to want to be here. I greatly enjoy the academic side of my college experience; I have had countless discussions with professors about various topics, many esoteric.

Yet, I am filled with fear whenever I see a DPS officer. I cannot shake the feeling that they are coming for me, that I will be questioned for being outside at the wrong hour because I seem suspicious to them. I cannot feel comfortable in discussion with the administration, knowing that at least some of them have hostile feelings towards myself and my work.

“Nothing is more important than the welfare of our students,” says Weissman, “we reaffirm our commitment to building a community of trust and respect for all members of our community.” Despite how many times I read these words, I cannot find any truth in them. I would hope my experience these past nine months is not normal. I cannot wish my experiences on others, and I am unsure as to whether I will ever be able to feel the same joy I had felt on this campus before all of this occurred.