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Commentary :: Politics
What Happens At College Doesn’t Always Stay At College
12 Oct 2010
Modified: 07:21:55 AM
Between the years 2003 and 2006, while at the University of Connecticut, I experienced a series of circumstances which can only be described as bizarre, and which became more bizarre as time went on. This continued until my graduation in June of 2006. It involved harassment, racism, prejudice and more, but it didn’t stop there. There were parameters which would open my mind up to a completely hidden side of college’s underbelly exposed to only a few.
During my time at school matriculated in the Landscape Architecture Department I began to notice I was being treated differently by certain professors. One in particular let his feelings be known through a series of obvious and not so indirect insinuations about my past. He did this during my sophomore year and never stopped right through my senior year.

It seemed somewhere along the line my past as a student protester, back in the 1990’s protesting against a local college’s supposed ties to supporting the South African government indirectly through financial investments, became known. How it came to be known I wasn’t sure, but it did. As this was a program where, during first semester sophomore year, you competed with other students to win a permanent place as a matriculated student, I thought my chances of getting in were slim to none. It was a selection process with a selection committee, and he was one of the selectors.

I got in somehow. The professor didn’t want to let it go, and soon his pressure on me mounted and spread to other professors and students. By junior year I was dealing with a series of perpetual incidents, and most of the time I never knew what was coming next.

It was during this year one of the students made a shocking admission to me. A student named Eduardo Colon, who worked to win my friendship and trust starting the first semester sophomore year, made an admission to me one day while we were at lunch. He was a minority student, like me, and we had discussed my treatment numerous times. He knew I was getting fed up.

He used to tell me that the problem with the kind of harassment I was undergoing, was that it was hard to prove. There was always the issue of plausible deniability, and, as the professor in question has conscripted many into his pattern of discrimination, it would be an uphill battle to put it mildly. The professor did so through first exaggerating the nature my protests during in February of 1990, when I was 17 not in my thirties as I was at UConn, and linking them through repeated inference to what happened on 9/11.

The repeated inference was subtle and thus hard to challenge. However, the sheer volume and consistent repetition made it almost impossible to completely combat. When that failed he would bribe people with good grades. When that failed people’s grades would drop period – suddenly, and it became either stay and play or leave; sink or swim. The goal of the harassment became clearly to get me to drop out, flunk out or get kicked out as a result of something stemming from the stress so as to get rid of me cleanly.

Back to Eduardo Colon and junior year; I told him I was thinking about suing for discrimination. He tried repeatedly to convince me to stop. He could see I was serious, and believe me, I was. I was angry and ready to take it to court. I had been mentioning it to him off and on for a little while by then. It was then, he dropped the bombshell, and, without directly coming out and saying it, he revealed he was a law enforcement official who had been on campus for eight years. He then told me at least one other student, Vivian Lee was also.

He indicated, though he was going to leave the college campus undercover work (he was physically beginning to look too old for the part), Vivian was planning to go to another campus after UConn, and I would blow her chances and their cumulative work over the years. He then indicated some others, like Tim Clarke from Somers, CT and Jim Leblanc from Unionville, CT. He was fuzzy about who Tim worked for, but said Jim worked in private security. He indicated there may be others.

I remember everyday Jim would go to his Buick (later Volkswagen) SUV and pull out a yellow legal notepad and write on it. It seemed odd, because his notebooks were always the white lined academic type. I now realize they were all probably taking notes on what was going on in class, and on campus. I was perhaps the main focus of that group of people, at least in the Landscape Architecture program, but most of them lived on campus. Thus, there were obviously other people and names which were being added to the list.

The partying for that group of people often occurred in the classroom when the professors weren’t around. Thus, they probably took notes on that also. There are, in all likelihood, notes on everyone in the program and beyond, people would not want popping back up as adults years from now from their days experimenting in college. As Eduardo was on campus eight years and Vivian had been attending college at the New School in NYC previously, there were notes somewhere from all of their work. These notes may still exist somewhere.

What’s worse is, as Jim Leblanc was a private contractor, who knows where his notes went. Who knows how they will be used. My information’s out there as I put it out there myself to keep this from happening to others and myself in the future, but what about the tangential people just there as students? What will their information hold as surprises for them in the future?

We live in the information age, and as we see with all the skeletons in people’s closets which pop out during elections, this is the information age, and the most important and valuable thing these days, even more so than gold, can be information. It can be used to ruin a person or to make them.

Just look at the college student, Tyler Clementi, who recently took his life over his private life being put out there for all to see. Whether you are gay or not, it shows clearly the power of information and secrets. It can even force people to take their own lives. They say freedom isn’t free. Sometimes the price comes in the experience of learning just how real those words really are. Not that that excuses it.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to
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