A reader writes:
I don’t know if this normal sexual harassment policy or if my school is just off its rocker. Since I have had issues with the administration before, such that I quit a few months ago and am merely finishing up the term, I think they are treating this inappropriately, but I wanted some input. A student posted publically, in the class’s online forum, some personal messages to one of the female students. They were kind of strange; he said that he missed her and asked where she was. The girl doesn’t know this boy, and I figured that just based on their lack of class interaction, and his strangeness in relationship to the conversations I have had with him after class and his forum posts made me think something was a bit off.
It turns out that this student had emailed the female student in my class a bunch of sexually graphic messages in the private online messaging center in the education management system the school has. When this came to my attention I told the student that I was reporting the information, and I would not let him in the class because she felt uncomfortable. He showed up to class five minutes late, and as politely as I could be, and without providing too much detail told him he couldn’t come into the class, but that I, or someone else, would contact him in a couple of days regarding the public posting. I didn’t mention the private messages for fear of escalation. I walked back in the classroom. The student continued to remain outside the door, and this made me nervous, so I decided to call the campus police. The student then walks in, sits down, and with his hands, by making the hang-up the phone gesture, tells me to hang up the phone. Of course, I am terrified at this point and I reach for my cell phone and call 911 because the campus police dispatch still have me on hold. He does this for a minute or two and then leaves the classroom. I have the students barricade the door while we wait for the police, on a campus I could walk in less than five minutes (it took the police over 10 minutes to get there). But the doors open outward and lock from the outside, so we are just holding the doors in. The student then comes back and tries to get back in the classroom, and keeps loitering outside the classroom and trying to peek in until the police come. It is after the police come that things seem to go insane in a way I didn’t think that they could.
The police keep saying that they cannot prove the student sent the emails, and at one point the officer demands my class list in order to make sure some other student isn’t in my class. I wasn’t made privy to why, but perhaps he is an email hacker. So, here is a situation in which the female student doesn’t know the male student, she has sexually graphic emails from him, and he is acting aggressively and threatening toward me when I don’t let him in the class. The dean of student affairs, and the go to person for sexual harassment is in there the whole time with the officer. She isn’t comforting to the student. She is acting like this is not a serious incident and comes in all cocky and starts playing drum on the table with her fingers. I think to myself, what a lack of sensitivity; and even the girl says to me, “I feel like I have to prove he sent these emails.” We are both asking what her safety on campus will be, to which we aren’t given very comforting answers. Finally she goes, by the way no one offered to walk her to her car, and I am asked to write up a letter to the dean of student affairs (the woman who came in a decided to play drum on the table) who will pass it on to campus police.
The outcome of the situation is that the student has been dropped from my class, but he can be on campus and attend his other classes while this investigated. I am told that the reason he came back into my classroom was because he misunderstood and thought I was coming back out to talk to him. I think, how can a ‘get off the phone gesture’ and trying to re-enter the classroom again after I am calling the police while the doors are barricaded and the other students are yelling at him to leave, be seen as a miscommunication. The dean of student affairs tells me that she has to be concerned for his rights and that the dean of the social science department will attend my class next Wednesday, as if that’s enough. So, I feel like, this is a clear cut case of sexual harassment by someone who has aggressive tendencies, and basically the only evidence this girl has is in question, not to mention how many times they asked if she knew this guy; and it seems his actions in the classroom don’t matter. I think, and I am not sure, and this is why I am asking, if he had said, bomb, or gun, he would have been not allowed on campus during this investigation. Any advice or thoughts would be deeply appreciated.