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12.05.2004

Taylor profs respond with grace and humility

Annie received a good response from a few of her old professors at Taylor. I'm not placing much hope into that transferring into support, but it's great for Annie. It's good that they're talking through things, too. A snippet:

Sorry to learn of your bad experience at Taylor. We always hope each student views his or her Taylor years as some of the very best. Unfortunately, we also know that is not always the case.
When Taylor's administration learned of the things that happened to me (from other people, this was before I started complaining), they called their attorneys and had some of their licensed staff searching for liability insurance. Striking difference.

Over the past few weeks, I've learned a lot. I've learned more about Taylor, more than I thought there was to know. The responses I've received, mostly from students who don't sympathize but empathize is nice. The otherside, students and alumni alike, rears its ugly head at me, as if it were my fault that I've been hurt.

I've lost friends. I remember the day I realized that. True, others had already turned away from me, unable to face the cold. But they weren't friends, I rationalized. Friends would stand by my side. So, it was a sobering blast of arctic air when I realized that if I decided to move forward, to do what I knew in my heart was right, the cost would be extreme.

I was numb one night, after reading the face of a "friend" and coming to understand that because I spoke out we weren't going to be friends anymore. It was somewhat of a brutal revelation. Her coldness, her body language said it all.

It was the body language of a lot of people that I used to call friends that tipped me off in the first place. I never realized how keen my observational skills were until I started picking up such subtle vibes. I never realized how easy it was to see through someone being fake, to detect lies and deceit.

Usually those, "uh-huh" moments in life are good. For several weeks at Taylor -- those moments hit me like a Mack truck. Over and over again. What I experienced in previous semesters at the hands of a few rogue staff I was now experiencing from people who I'd let get close. And I normally don't let people get close.

For a while, I beat myself up over it. Partly, because I couldn't understand their behavior, so clearly, it must be my fault that they all acted the way they did. Partly, because I let my guard down. I put up walls and then created doors for certain people. Taylor was a safe place, after all. That's what people were always telling me.

"What's the point of living in this kind of community if we can't be vulnerable," my hall director told me once. I believed him. I trusted him.

And then I felt like a fool for doing so. I suddenly knew what it was like to be shunned, deserted, and forced into isolation in a place that thrives on "community" and togetherness. I remember returning at J-term to meet a new staff member in residence life. He was nice, cordial -- we talked for a long time. The next day, after talking with my hall director, he wouldn't make eye contact with me. He didn't have enough respect for me to look at me. And he wasn't the first to treat me that way.

Reliving all these memories has proved to be a lot harder than I anticipated. It hurt then, it hurts now. Taylor's response to me, long before I ever made mention of any legal liability hurt a lot. They weren't interested in reconciliation, they were interested in me going away. Every ideal, everything about community and vulnerability that I'd learned the previous years was shattered.

And then, the cycle repeats itself. I get e-mails that are nothing more than hate-filled messages of disgust and contempt. Most alumni don't express solidarity or shock at what happened to me, but rather that I have the "unmitigated gull" to speak ill of Taylor at all. They seek to perpetuate what happened at the school. And they do it well.

I'll continue, as long as I see a benefit to the school. I pride myself on being able to handle the criticism that comes with my job; I let it role easily off my shoulders. But here, it's different. I'm starting to wonder if letting the community wallow in its ignorance wouldn't have been better.

It certainly would've been better for me. But whatever the response I get, I know it's just defensiveness. Taylor breeds some Nazi-like tendency to protect and preserve the institution; God only knows why. They're not lashing out at me for doing what I'm doing, for being disloyal. They're lashing out because the image they've wanted to hold in their minds has been shattered.
I didn't like it when the image was first shattered for me, and I still don't. But I accept it. And I'll do what I can to change it.