Thursday, October 27, 2005

Don't know WHAT to think

Today, one of my better students told me that he's not sure if he will still be enrolled after this week.

He really screwed up a couple weeks ago, landing himself in the hospital with both alcohol poisoning and a concussion. Now, this is clearly a Bad Thing. He knows it, he owns it, he has expressed both regret and deep disgust with himself. Either he's the best liar I've ever met, or he really gets it.

He has told me that a member of the administration has repeatedly demanded to know the names of the people who supplied him with alcohol, threatening him with expulsion if the information is not forthcoming. He refuses to name names, feeling that it is not his place to participate in a type of "witch hunt", especially in light of the fact that while he knows who he started the evening with, he does not clearly remember the particulars. Excess alcohol consumption combined with a mild head injury do not usually contribute to perfect recall.

Perhaps the administrator has a very good reason to be concerned about the student's behavior, and also with finding out who is leading these freshmen into temptation, as it were. And perhaps the student is exaggerating the threat. But I still have a few problems with the situation. I'll try to explain.

Our college has a code of conduct that all students, faculty, and staff are expected to adhere to. It includes requirements of speaking "honestly" and "respectfully" to others. Threats and intimidation don't seem to fit into that. It includes the practice of "personal integrity". How does encourgaging a student to testify against his friends fit into that? It includes learning from other's experiences. But don't we learn more from our own experiences? The student seems to have learned the right lesson from his experience - that drinking to excess is a really bad idea, one not to be repeated, as it threatens his chances of survival and success. What is to be gained by threatening him and treating him like a criminal? What happened to that final component of the code: demonstrate compassion?

I'm not talking about a kid who mouths the appropriate apologies and goes on doing exactly the same things that got him into trouble in the first place. I'm not talking about a kid who is failing most of his classes for lack of effort. I'm not talking about a kid who ignores every chance given to him to make a change. As I said before, some students are not ready, or even interested in college. But even the ones who are make dumb choices occasionally. And neither should be treated with such disrespect. Bitch in private. (I do) But when that student is in front of you, maybe listening would serve better than lecturing.

I don't know. Maybe I'm naive. Maybe I'm being inconsistent. I don't know.


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