I know this blog post is bound to get some negative responses or flack from some and that’s ok. This is not to discourage anyone from enrolling at Gallaudet. Trust me my positive experiences have outweighed the negative and that is what weighed more in my decision to remain a student here. I am here to deliver the truth about my experiences as a Gally student and that includes the positive and the negative.
Last year, I had to experience a rather difficult roommate experience that left me feeling a bit threatened. I will not mention the student’s name for privacy reasons of that student. I am in no way going to lead you to believe I was 100% innocent in the matter either. I feel I MUST write this blog not only to call attention to what is going on but more importantly release some heavy feelings that I have been experiencing recently. Once I write this I will no longer dwell on it or discuss it. My heart and soul will be free of the in some sorts bitterness I have from the experience and in a way I hope that if any other students have had this experience that they will come forward as well.
Now I am from the South (Florida to be exact) and coming here to Gally I have had some wonderful experiences and some not so wonderful experiences. I have experienced some wonderful attitudes and some negative attitudes. However, I don’t think that any of my life experiences had ever prepared me for what I was to experience the day this new roommate moved in. It started shortly after my previous roommate, Miranda*, had moved out. I received an e-mail saying that all students with individual rooms must consolidate and find a roommate. Well one-day I received a ring at my door and this student said that she was previously without a roommate and wanted to move into my room. She seemed fairly friendly. She introduced herself and I returned the courtesy. To give you some background, part of the problem with my previous roommate was that I am an extreme insomniac because I have what is called excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), which is a form of narcolepsy so by night-time I am wired and wide awake. Unfortunately I was not there when, Miranda originally moved in to inform her of this because I was at home having surgery but we parted ways with no harsh feelings. Anyways, when this new roommate first came to see the room I was sure to let her know upfront that I stayed up rather late and that sometimes I fell to sleep with the TV on. We came to a mutual agreement that she would remind me to set the timer on my TV and insisted that the staying up late would not bother her. It seemed like a good match and for a while we got along then I had to leave to go home for my doctors appointments. While I was away we decided that if she had any ideas about how to set up the room to make more room for the both us then that would be great and she did. The problem started shortly after I came back and the week after she had come back from staying with a nearby relative. All of a sudden the TV became a problem, my staying up late became a problem and her true colors began to shine through. One day she blatantly asked me, “Why are black girls so loud?” My initial reaction was to ignore the comment–perhaps I was overreacting–either way it wasn’t worth a confrontation since we had to live with each other. I sought out the advice of some friends and their reactions were the same as mine…that her statement was racist and stereotypical. In fact one friend had stated to me that this was only one tiny fraction of the racist things she has said in his presence. It was then that I decided I could not let the issue slide. Still to avoid any confrontation I decided to just keep my distance. I was cordial but not as friendly as I had been. This was only further agitated by a comment she made one day about me always being sick because I was unhappy inside. One day she decided to confront me (not in a harsh way) about what was going on with me, asking me if she had done something that made me upset. I figured this was my golden opportunity to let her know about the comment she made, what it meant to me and how little I appreciated her making those types of comments. She brushed her comment off as a cultural thing adamantly declaring that she was only trying to find out more about a culture. Well just a sidenote for anyone who thinks that the volume of anyone’s voice is culture, you are sadly mistaken. This is something done by many and is only specific to an individual. We discussed what was bothering both of us: me with the TV, her with her comments and her insisting on turning on the AC and opening the windows and I thought we had the issues resolved. Well they were not. I found myself trying to do everything I could to appease her. Going to bed early even if I wasn’t sleepy or at least turning off my TV even though I couldn’t get to bed and one night I even stayed away from the room because she claimed she had a headache and didn’t need any noise or light in the room–which is understandable since I have bad migraines myself–and so I respected her wishes. The trouble started up again one week when one of her friends was visiting which also happened to be midterm week. I was up late one night trying to finish some VLOGs for my midterms and after being away from the room all day and night she came back with her friend around 2am insisting that I turn off all the lights because they were ready for bed. Well usually I would do so and just work with the light from my computer screen or desk lamp, however, in order to complete a blog that was not dark and that I could be seen clearly in I would need ample light so her request was impossible and irrational. After I refused she waited until her friend left the room to tell me that I was, “F** rude dude!” I felt this was more than laughable after all I had done or tried to adjust to make the environment amicable yet she persistently continued to open windows and turn up the air knowing that it left my joints stiff from several operations. I made sure I let her know exactly how I felt about her comment, that I had already gone to Residence Life and requested that she be moved, that I had enough and about her lack of responsibility for being rude. I also told her that I didn’t want to communicate with her anymore. It was with luck that my own mother was on the phone with me and heard her saying this as well. She was rather appalled. It was from this point on that I was done being nice and trying to get along. My feelings were why should I be cordial and compromising if I wasn’t going to get the same in return. I still hadn’t reached my breaking point though. In between she tried to be nice in hopes I would change my mind about having her moved or whatever but it just wasn’t working. Her attitude was very up and down one day she’s trying to have conversation with me about Prison Break (the TV show) the next she was Mr. Hyde. She started pushing my buttons even more by touching my things like my TV and my microwave. I tried talking to the GRA and the CRE but all I kept receiving was that I needed to be patient until they could get one of us moved. The last straw came on October 19th, when I was in my room sitting at my desk and I began to over hear a conversation she was having with her mother via Skype. At that time I was on the phone with my own mother and my mother overheard what she was saying and thought it would be a good idea for me to record the conversation. In the conversation she tells her mother all these lies about her being afraid to keep her things out in the room because she is afraid I will damage her property because in her words I had damaged my previous roommate’s property and that is why she moved out. She further went on to admit she was harassing me on purpose. For the record I have never PURPOSELY damaged another person’s property more importantly I never even so much as touched my old roommate’s property and the roommate before that was my sister so why would I need to damage her property. Where I come from we call this defamation and it can be punishable by monetary damages being paid if you say something you know isn’t true about another person just to hurt their character but I digress. It took everything I could to keep quiet and continue my conversation with my mother while the recorder picked up all the lies she was telling to her mother. Every bone in my body wanted so bad to tell her what’s what and say loud enough so that her mother could hear my feelings about her daughter blatantly lying about me and the entire truth about what her daughter was really up to because it was clear she wasn’t telling the truth. She wanted so bad for someone to believe her, fortunately for me my mother was auditory witness for me and what I had been going through because she was on the phone for most of it or if she was not I would make sure to call her so she could hear what was going on. After this incident I had decided I had enough of being patient and enough of being cordial. If this person could sit there and lie with a straight face what else was she capable of doing? Perhaps she was the one capable of damaging someone else’s property. In fact that night I refused to sleep in the room and instead slept in a friend’s room for fear of what might have happened if I had stayed. The next day I immediately went to RL and told them that I could no longer stay in that room that one of us had to be moved or my mom would be here the next day to withdraw me from the school as she too had become fed up with the lack of action. I mean it had gotten so bad I was literally in tears about the situation. Finally, I was able to get them to move me and I thought it would be the end all of the situation but boy was I wrong. Later that same night we were in the room (because I had to wait for my new room to be cleaned and ready) and she wanted me turn my TV off well at this point I was no longer being nice and I refused to turn it off. Thus, began the start of her new tactic to leave the room and go get the RA on duty. She came back with an RA, Janine*, and I explained to her that I was not going to do that. That my roommate was simply complaining because she could not get her way that I was doing making compromises and I turned towards the wall. I had said all I was going to say about the situation. Of course my roommate went into another tantrum about me being a dude that was f*** rude or whatever but at this point I didn’t care. That night she even opened the window and turned on the AC again out of spite. Funny thing is she woke up the next morning with a slight cold and that night I just put on an extra blanket and socks. So I finally got word that my room was ready to be moved into but I had classes all that day so I didn’t get a chance to start until later that night. I tried to get as much stuff as I could out at that point still in fear of what she might do to my stuff. After I had moved all the little stuff off my desk and other furniture I decided it would be a good time to wipe down the furniture because to my knowledge you must clean before you move out or be fined. Well she immediately left the room saying nothing to me and I knew exactly where she was going and by this time I had learned to call my mother as witness and that’s exactly what I did. She re-entered the room with the GRA and I was told to stop cleaning because she was allegedly allergic. I explained my stance and further explained that she had been cleaning as well so why was it no a problem with allergies when I was cleaning? I stopped cleaning or whatever but made sure to note that I would not be responsible for any fines since I was ordered not to clean. And so I went about my moving. At one point I had some friends help me move and she proceeded to ask one if he felt she was racist and he replied to her that the answer lied within her question (my interpretation: if you have to ask it means you’ve done or said something that could be deemed in a racist way). Well around 10 or 11pm that night I entered the room for the last time that night to get what little bit I could fit in my suitcase and the rest I wanted to lock in the closet for the aforementioned reasons. Open entering the room I noticed that my roommate was in her pajamas, however, she was not sleep and shortly after I entered the room she turned on her TV (which til this day she declares was on when I entered the room). She requested that I leave and after ignoring her she then asked me if I needed any help (I’m sure it was to patronize me–helpfulness was in no way on her mind). Once again she left after I refused to respond and I called my mother knowing what was about to happen. Naturally she returned to the room with another RA, Janine again. This time I was ordered to leave the room within 15 mins because she was ready to go to seep. I explained to the RA that she was not going to sleep that she had just recently turned on her TV and I only wanted to gather a few things that this was only a harassment tactic of hers to have something to complain about and to make me look bad. Nonetheless I got my things and was gone in less than 15mins which was my orignal plan but she wouldn’t leave well enough alone. So the next day I returned to the room to get the remainder of my things around. Upon entering she was not in the room and I thought I was going to be able to make a clean break. Unfortunately, she entered shortly there after and once again tried getting my attention. I had my music on and did everything I could to ignore her. As usual she left the room and I called my mother but this time she returned with 2 RAs. I felt very intimidated what was the point of returning with 2 RAs and having 3 against 1 me. I felt further insulted when they questioned me about stealing her calculator. I had to take out my own graphing calculators and show them the engraving of my name on each just to prove that I had no desire or need to steal anything of hers. Her excuse was that maybe the calculator fell into my things as I was moving, however, my things were kept in large Rubbermaid tubs with lids and kept in my locked closet until I moved out. Never once coming in contact with her things. Not to mention I hadn’t been in the room all day until right before she walked in and was never in there alone any of the other times which could be affirmed by one of the RAs that came back with her. This was yet again just another tactic of hers to further patronize me and harass me. I had enough and so had my mom. My mom demanded that DPS be called and so they were and after explaining the situation they too decided that this was harassment and a complaint was filed and she was removed from the room until I could get the remainder of my things.
After this repeated harassment by her I felt I needed to file a complaint with the Office of Student Conduct. We had a hearing and what surprised me the most (oddly enough) is that she never denied a thing she had done or said (which in a way was commendable) but what was even more shocking that her words even in the hearing were that she had never heard a black girl talk like I did. It’s as if she had this stereotypical or racist picture of what all black girls talked like or sounded like or appeared as. And for the first time in my life I actually felt a need to apologize because I grew up around educated women who just happened to be black or because my pants fit properly and were tailored or because I didn’t wear big gold hoop earrings in my ear or speak in slang. And why should I be made to apologize for that because I don’t fit the image the media would have you believe is something cultural? Might I add that she bought up the race issue in the hearing. I was only there about the harassment. Anyone who knows me knows that I am never one to pull a “race card” in fact I strongly believe that often people can take some things a little too personal and misconstrue them. During the hearing one of the board members asked me what did I feel the RAs were there for and I responded honestly that I felt that they were there to assist students, however, the RAs document whenever issues like this occur and if they are noticing that there is a pattern of one person constantly complaining better judgement would say that there is a deeper situation going on than what was being told to them. I mean this was 4 RAs in a span of 24hrs. I presented the evidence of the conversation she had with her mom as well as pictures proving in contrast to what she was telling her mom about having to lock her things (I took pictures the same night of the conversation showing just how frightful she was–or lack there of since she left the room with her laptop sitting out on the desk and no lock on her closet–not actions of someone who is fearful of having her property damaged). I also provided an affidavit from my Miranda stating that I had never damaged her property–contrary to what she claimed and the notes sent to me by her on Facebook until I blocked and reported her (ah yes I forgot to mention that she had gone as far as harassing me on Facebook as well). All in all I felt my evidence was pretty strong. You can imagine my disdain over the Winter break when I got word that the board found that she was not responsible for her actions especially after presenting the evidence I had and her own testimony. I was disheartened. I wasn’t sure what to do next. To me they were basically saying it is okay to harass a fellow student because you don’t like them or out of spite. We tolerate this behavior. Then I thought maybe it was this whole biased harassment thing they kept bringing up in the hearing. Although I tried to make it very clear, I don’t think she was harassing me because I was a certain race but that I felt the 2 incidents were in no way connected. She was just racist and just happened to be harassing me. Now in all honesty I started not to return to Gally after I found out the decision of the board and that in a way, or atleast my personal feelings, that they were condoning her actions, words and behaviors but then I thought why should I allow one person’s obvious ignorance stop me from getting my education and succeeding in life. If I leave not only does she win the decision she wins what she wanted from the start, for me to leave. And ultimately I lose the bonds I’ve made with some really good people here.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way saying that the board’s decision is any reflection of all Gallaudet campus members’ views or the views of the entire student body on the matter but I challenge Gallaudet (staff, students, faculty, etc alike) to make it known that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in any way, shape or form whether that be by tolerance classes or other classes of a sort or what have you. I bring this challenge because this isn’t the 1st time this has happened: 2007 MSSD Racism Incident, WUSA9 Report on MSSD Incident
And since I have heard of several incidents happening. And with that said I open the floor for open and honest comments on your feelings or even your own experiences.
One last thing I would like to thank those who were supportive: friends, family, Ombuds and the CRE.
*All names except mine (naturally) have been changed for privacy reasons