As I mentioned in the last post, suspicion arose for most upperclassmen upon arrival to Welcome Week, August 2010. After many lengthy discussions of where the students' voices properly fit into the university atmosphere and what sorts of actions should be taken, the first action came by the brave pen of one student as a letter to the editor of the Bison.
This letter mentioned concerns for the University's future, citing that although the 2020 plan seemed to propose a lofty vision of University prosperity, the means to that end seemed to be "relieving [professors] of their professorial duties," as well as demoting a beloved administrator "masked behind a simple, titular change." The dates and figures for the student's knowledge came from his leadership in the Welcome Week Steering Committee, something openly discussed in the letter. In short, this letter asked for more information, specifically, asking the Bison to write stories which would address what this student perceived to be the concerns of the student body.
This letter came out in v. 94, issue 6, of the Bison on October, 20, 2010. This issue of the newspaper came out the day before Fall Break. Upon return to Bison Hill (10-25-10), the student received a call from Dr. Whitlock's secretary on his cell phone, expressing an urgent desire that he meet with the president. It was understood from that conversation that the meeting would be that day. After all, the secretary seemed to have his schedule in front of her while conferring with the student about a time to meet.
After spending the morning looking up words used in the letter to make sure that the time between Welcome Week and Fall Break in which the letter had been crafted, had indeed been sufficient time to make sure that every word was the correct one, he felt sure in his decision to put his name on such a letter in such a forum.
After taking a test, the student arrived at Dr. Whitlock's office and was told it would be just a moment before the president would see him. When he walked into the front door of the president's office, Dr. Whitlock was walking in the side, a copy of the Bison in hand.
Dr. Whitlock positioned the two on two chairs which were placed parallel to one another, the national championship basketball between them. This made eye contact very difficult as the two were either facing the same way or separated by a basketball.
After a handshake, initiated by the student-- not the president, Dr. Whitlock began the meeting with a series of statements which revealed clearly the hostile nature of the meeting. This involved statements like: "I was wrong about you." "I thought you would come to me if you had concerns instead of writing a letter like this." "This kind of information is not for students to know." "I was out of town last week, I just got a copy of this this morning." As well as a repetition of the statement, "I misjudged you."
When Dr. Whitlock finished with this invective, he looked to the student for an answer. Having realized that this diatribe contained no question, the student calmly began to state, "My purpose in writing the letter..." But he was never able to finish explaining his thought. In his first opportunity to speak in this meeting he was interrupted by Dr. Whitlock reading the expressed purpose as written in the letter. Dr. Whitlock then looked to the student for an answer.
He tried again. "I wrote the letter because..." At this point, he was again interrupted. Dr. Whitlock stopped him from speaking and demanded, "The only thing I need to know is, do you think everything written in this letter is true?" Obviously, confronted with such a question, the student began to second guess himself. But he remembered that all morning he had rechecked every word of that letter, not to mention that he had spent two months writing it in the first place (a fact mentioned in the letter itself). Feeling empowered by these things, the student replied, "Yes." At this point he was attacked with another onslaught of "I misjudged you." etc.
At this point, Dr. Whitlock put the paper down on the table and stood up; he was now literally talking down to the student. Here he asked a few questions, putting the burden of administrative secrecy onto the student. "Why didn't you talk to someone?" "Don't you know who you are and what it means to put your name on a letter like this?" It was very clear that Dr. Whitlock thought the letter was written unthinkingly, in a fit of rage-- perhaps like the one which had inspired this meeting.
Finally, Dr. Whitlock asked, "Do you think every hiring decision needs to go through students?" To this, the student responded, "No, and I said that in the letter. I was only asking for more information." To this, Dr. Whitlock replied by laughing at the student and asking, "Oh, so if you don't know about something, then no student does?"
Of course, at this point in time, that student was currently reading every single post which appeared on the OBU website. So the answer was probably, yes. But that is beside the point.
After laughing at the student, Dr. Whitlock walked to his desk-- perhaps 8 or 9 yards away, sat down, and started writing. Feeling dismissed, the student stood up, got his backpack and walked to the door. At this point, Dr. Whitlock started talking again.
"Admissions is probably a hard place to work for you with such a duplicitous attitude towards the university."
The student recalls that at this point he had little to say to the president. He had been literally talked down to, laughed at, and now, Dr. Whitlock was making it clear that he did not know what a student worker did in the Admissions office. Student workers are not on the front lines convincing students to come to OBU, they are most often in the back folding t-shirts. Furthermore, this student had been doing this job quite competently for nearly 4 years.
From here, Dr. Whitlock managed to mention that the issues with an ex-professor, whose name he said incorrectly, did not concern the student. Already sitting at his desk, he turned to face his computer.
Certain he was now dismissed, the student again walked to the door and managed to open it this time. Again, Dr. Whitlock resumed speaking.
"You should talk to the head of admissions about position reassignment."
In shock, from the doorway, the student simply responded, "My job?"
"Yes. Something with the same wages and the same hours, but a different job because it must be hard for you to work in Admissions when you hate the University so much."
Unable to stand anymore, the student nodded and left.
Click here for Part 2 in this series.