Mount Holyoke, A College For White Men?

I am a black student at Mount Holyoke College, the first of the seven sister schools, which was started because no other American colleges accepted women. Mount Holyoke women are taught to be bold, to never fear change, and to speak up against injustice… unless you’re a student of colour. 177 years later white male privilege still reigns supreme here. And it is actively reinforced by campus police.

I spent the early hours of Saturday morning at the South Hadley Police Department having been arrested at Mount Holyoke for “breach of peace.” This is how the story begins.

My boyfriend Sam came to visit me on a whim so I took my blankets and my things to an unoccupied room in the dorm where my friends and I often hang out. I have a roommate who I couldn’t kick out on such short notice so I set up the other room for Sam and I to hangout. On Friday night Sam and I were drinking in that room with some of our friends when suddenly two officers from campus police showed up.

A few of my friends simply disappeared. Sam was in the bathroom and so they only found me and one of my friends in the room. Without telling us what we had done wrong the officer demanded our student IDs which we gave to him and he told us that he was writing us a dean’s referral. I asked him what we were being referred for. He said that he had received a noise complaint, and from what he could see we were drinking and smoking weed. Firstly, there is a lot to be said about the Mount Holyoke “community” when students do not try to talk to their neighbours about noise but immediately resort to calling campus police. Campus police should not come and intervene if there hasn’t been any attempt by the students to come to a solution. Secondly, at the age of 21 drinking is perfectly within the law. As for the weed, the room did not smell like weed at all. I do not smoke weed and my friend and I were asking not be sent to the dean for something we had not done. My friend left soon after seeing that there was no use in talking to the officers, it seemed that their minds were already made up from the moment they walked in. I would have left too except that all my belongings were in the room.

When Sam came back from the bathroom the situation was still calm. One officer asked if we knew each other which I said we did. The officer shook Sam’s hand, introduced himself and apologized that they had to meet in these circumstances. When the officer realized that the room was not assigned to me he asked me to leave. I began to take my pillows and he told me to put them down. Everything was to stay there because he couldn’t confirm that I wasn’t stealing the property. I resigned then to just taking my phone and my laptop. But the officer would not let me take my laptop because he assumed that I was stealing it, they would have to take the laptop with them, he said.

There were very easy ways to check if the laptop was mine. I showed him the user name on the laptop and it obviously matched the name on my student ID, still this was not sufficient. And yet as a white man, although not even a student, Sam was allowed to take his bag and laptop out of the room without having to prove anything to anyone. When he takes stuff he is just taking his things, when I do, I am stealing.

He could have walked out with any number of things and never have been seen or heard of again. He could have even walked out with my laptop and that would have been fine. I am assumed guilty and not given a chance to prove myself innocent. Sam is assumed innocent and has no need to prove anything. The only only thing he needed, to prove that he wasn’t stealing, was to be white. Whereas they know that I am a Mount Holyoke student, they had my ID, they saw the username was mine and they know where I live.

They began to converse with him politely, discussing my situation with him like I wasn’t in the room, like Sam was the student here, like I was not the one being (wrongly) accused, or like Sam was my father and they were discussing with him the actions of his dependent. Or they were just fellow white men discussing the audacity of a black person to not accept racist treatment.

Officer: “She just needs to calm down.”
Sam: “I hear you.”

Then Sam proceeded to come to me to tell me I needed to more cooperative. Cooperative to being accused of smoking weed and stealing? Cooperative to having my things confiscated while he keeps his? He again told me to relax and in a slightly higher voice I explained that he needed to stop telling me that. The officer called the dean on duty.

I was happy to have a dean come to the room. I knew that she would see how ridiculous the situation was. Besides, having a woman in the room would be helpful (it was becoming unclear whether it was my race or my gender that warranted this treatment.) I waited calmly, but Sam kept coming to me, telling me to calm down. I told him to leave me alone about six times in the presence of the officers. They said nothing.

When the dean got there she was the first person who tried to listen to my side of the story. I explained that I was not smoking weed and asked her if she could even smell any weed. “I am not trained to,” she said, because there wasn’t even the faintest trace of weed smell in that room. But if the story got to the dean of students she would say it was my word against campus police’s and she would shrug and say she has to go with campus police’s word. Maybe it would be useful if the deans on duty were equipped to verify the accusations they allow to be passed on us.

The officer interjected on my conversation with the dean to add that I was refusing to leave. I asked him in front of the dean, “Was I or was I not trying to leave when you told me to?” Three times he refused to answer my question. And I pleaded with the dean, to the point where I was in tears, to see how unjust the situation was. I was not refusing to leave I was refusing to leave without my things. I was getting very frustrated that nobody was hearing me.

Sam came up to me yet again, in front of the two officers and the dean, telling to calm down. They all saw me ask him for the seventh time to leave me alone. Even though they could see that it was upsetting me, they did not ask him to respect my wishes and my personal space. At some point I was saying, “Please, please leave me alone” in tears. They watched him continuously come into my face. And then I finally said: “You do not go here, you do not face the same consequences that I am facing right now.”

The whole time I was saying this both Sam and the cops were repeatedly speaking over me saying “Maya, Maya.” And “You need to calm down right now.” I said to Sam, “You can’t be serious. He can introduce himself to you, shake your hand. He had no such courtesy with me.” Again the whole time as I am speaking to him the officers and the dean are in the background repeatedly saying “Maya, Maya.” Sam said “No, you don’t understand.”

Me: “I can’t believe this. I actually cannot believe this.”
Sam: “Let it be done right now!” he says raising his voice. Nobody tells him to calm down.
Me: “Wow, I cannot believe this, I actually cannot believe this.”
All four of them” Maya, Maya”
Officer: “If you don’t calm down, I’m placing you under arrest do you understand that?”

I told him that it would not be the first time white people refused to see their own privilege. Then Sam came and put his hand on me.

I shouted, “Sam if you don’t leave me alone I swear!!”
Sam, in a soft condescending voice: “Maya, Maya you need to listen to me.”
Me: “Sam-“ He tries to grab my arm, I move it away. “Sam-” He grabs my arm. Shouting, “Sam you are aggravating me to a point that I don’t want to get to!”
Officer: “Turn around!” He turns me toward the wall. “Place your hands behind your back.”

I did not fight them off or resist at all.

Officer: “You’re under arrest, ok? Breach of peace…You know I really wish it did not come to this but we have no choice, Maya.”
While I was in handcuffs crying quietly the officer had a conversation with Sam and the dean.
Officer: “We are transporting her down to South Hadley PD. If she has $45 she can probably make bail.”
Sam: “I’ll see her out.”
Officer: “But right now she’s…she’s…she needs to calm down.”
Dean: “I agree.”

I have been quietly crying in the corner.

Officer: “If she doesn’t calm down we can’t bring her back.”

I was transported to the station in handcuffs, I was searched, had mug shots taken, and slept in a cell till the bail clerk arrived. I had refused to pay bail and was ready to spend the weekend in jail. But when the bail clerk heard their accusations he could not see the seriousness of my offense. He told them to drive me back to school and to bring me to court on Monday. Not once were my rights read to me.

I made a voice recording of everything that took place leading up to my arrest, which is how I can quote everyone verbatim. At some point while Sam was conversing with the officers, my laptop started playing “say something I’m giving up on you.” A hilarious moment fit for the big screen. But he did not say something. He failed to act. As loving and kind as Sam is, and as much as he considers himself an ally to people of colour, on that day he stood firmly on the side of white oppression. His whiteness alone guaranteed him their attention, he could have asked them to afford me the same courtesy. On the recording it is clear that every single time I spoke, the dean, the officers and Sam were interrupting, interjecting and talking over me. The best thing he could have done would have been to point out to campus police that they were wrongly accusing me and that they were treating him, a complete stranger, better than they were treating a student. And when Sam saw that I was being arresting for finally reacting to his insistent provocation he needed to tell them that “She did tell me to leave her alone and I kept approaching her.” Because I did repeatedly ask him and at one point begged him to leave me alone, but they watched him and allowed him to ignore my wishes.

A black man in the same context would have never been allowed to keep harassing me. And if he grabbed me, that would have constituted as assault and aggression. And certainly a black man would have never been allowed to leave that room with a laptop without having to prove that it was his. I understand that Sam was not aware of the dynamics at play. But that is what makes white privilege so lethal. So-called allies of people of colour, acknowledging your white privilege means realizing that you are not being treated respectfully because you are a better person, you are being treated differently because you are white.

Mount Holyoke campus police, your job is to protect Mount Holyoke students, even if they are black. You not only wrongly accused me of smoking weed, you accused me of theft and then allowed a man to continuously harass me in front of you. Mount Holyoke campus police and the dean on duty watched a man put his hands on me, and then arrested me for shouting about it. It seems as a black person your only option is to allow yourself to be mistreated. To be wrongly accused and harassed. A white man can go as far as grabbing your body. It is your crime to not allow him to.

– Maya Wegerif

*The names in the story have been changed.

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118 thoughts on “Mount Holyoke, A College For White Men?

  1. I wish I could say I was surprised, but things like this were happening when I was attending as well. The “highlight” was when they arrested a professor (who I had for 2 courses) who happens to be black. His offense? Walking outside at night.

    Even though you were in the “wrong” room, drinking, and being a little bit loud, it’s absolutely silly you ended up in JAIL. We did all sorts of wacky stuff while under the influence when I was there. We were even told by PubSafe to quiet down, but we were never thrown out of an area or ARRESTED.

    This whole thing sucks and I’m really sorry.

  2. When I was a student at MHC I got hassled by public safety all the time, and was pulled in and harrassed/interrogated and told I was obviously a “party girl” because I came and went at weird hours ( what student doesn’t? ) I was being questioned because a friend of mine had been accused of messing with her roomates stuff and as someone who had spent time in their room I was questioned and harassed. It was a terrible experience for me and i complained to my dean. Im sorry you had this experience but it sounds like you are projecting frustration at your annoying boyfriend on mhc/society. I am white and I fully recognise the existence of white privilege, I just feel like you are blowing this unpleasant event way out if proportion. You were drinking in an unauthorized area. The cops were doing their (lame) job. Gotta love the MHC spirit in you that writes an angry post instead of writing the night off as a shitty experience!

    1. Shela,

      The most striking thing for me was not so much that she got in trouble (she obviously broke a rule) but how her white boyfriend got totally different treatment in the SAME situation and how fast things escalated to her response being considered “criminal behavior”. I can almost guarantee that I would not have gotten the same response (I’m white). I’m not sure how else to explain that other than someone responding to the differences in their race and sex.

      Also, IMHO, white privilege is telling a person of color what their experience of racism was REALLY about.

      -Jaime ’97

    2. No Shela, she’s not blowing it out of proportion, if u were black, you’ll understand. Mount holyoke college, should either be tamed or it will be shut down,break the stereotype!

  3. To those who are accusing Maya of not accepting responsibility for her behavior, you are missing the point. Clearly, she broke some college rules, but none that are not broken on a more or less regular basis, apparently. Her reaction is to the severity of the consequences handed down by the campus police and supported by the dean. A reaction that made her feel like she was being viewed as a criminal, rather than an inebriated college girl. Further, if she was so out of control, aren’t the campus police trained in talking down students who are not acting in their own best interests due to inebriation, relationship troubles, workload stress or a host of other triggers? I would have imagined that’s their main job. I also thought it was protocol nowadays, to escort out of control, inebriated students to a medical facility, not jail. Let’s say that Maya did not use good judgment. Perhaps she felt threatened by the authority figures who were making unfounded accusations rather than hearing her out and when her boyfriend did not support her, perhaps that was the last straw. At that moment, it was not possible for her to “calm down” as demanded by all of the white men around her. Color and gender do matter for a young woman of color who is now operating out of a fight or flight response. Maya is responsible for breaking the rules she did, but the campus police are responsible for escalating this situation. i must admit that Maya has shown poor judgment in the past, Sam??

  4. In reading her own words she admits to not following the directions of the officers after repeated requests and yelling at them. It seems like they were giving her multiple chances and hoping that her boyfriend would help calm her down. If she had calmed down and left the area as requested the campus officers might of had the chance to look through her things to confirm they were hers and return them to her. It sounds like sam was being reasonable so they did not treat him the same way. In the real world a police officer would have arrested her after the first time she yelled back at them and did not follow directions. Her own account documents disorderly conduct. She should take the time to think about how she is accountable for causing this situation. People regardless of race are incorrectly accused of crimes all the time. The people who react with a level head and make the choice to tackle the problem calmly through the right channels are the people who are vindicated.

    1. I don’t even think you get it. From the second those cops walked into the room, Maya and Sam were on different levels. They shook his hand and said “I’m sorry to meet you in such awful circumstances.” Did they say that to Maya? No. She got accused of doing something she wasn’t even doing, nor could they prove. Do you even know what pot smells like? Let me tell you, you would know. Not only that, you’d have to find a pipe and the remnants of a joint. They would have found that in a vacant room.

      Sam got to take his stuff from the vacant room. Maya did not. Not even her phone–which has tons of personal information on it and is her way to contact her family and loved ones–nor her computer, which is most likely filled with important documents (as well as memories such as photographs); she might want to do homework on the following day, what would have happened then if public safety still had it? How long would they have wanted to keep it? I feel my anxiety rising over such a violation of privacy. If one was in the Library and asked to leave, would you be requested to leave your things because they couldn’t be solidly identified as yours? The room was vacant, ie clearly not in ownership by any student, like any other common space anywhere else on campus. Therefore, common sense should have told the officers that those things were hers. And not for nothing, it would have taken them all of one minute to figure out that it was hers based either on a password or via documents stored inside the computer (which also feels like a humiliating violation of privacy, if you ask me).

      Lastly, it’s not for you to judge someone’s feelings in any given situation. You have no idea how you would feel in that situation nor how you would react, until you are placed in that situation. it doesn’t matter what would have happened in the real world. Maya would have went to jail and had to show up in court. Doesn’t mean that the situation wasn’t wrong. I am a little bit baffled by the fact that you went to Mount Holyoke and don’t have more of an open mind.

      1. I absolutely get it. She was violating the rules and when the campus security questioned her she was defiant. I did not judge her feelings as you claim. I am judging her actions which she was quite clear about and documented in her story. Also Sam was not in the room when they walked in, only Maya and her friend. Her behavior was not appropriate regardless of how she is feeling or the situation. Although you feel that “common sense” should have told the officers that the items were hers I feel that common sense should have told her not to be in a room that did not belong to her(a violation of rules) and if a officer is questioning you should be polite and respectful regardless of how you are feeling. I have a very open mind, but I also live in the world of reality and accountability. She made the situation worse for herself by acting the way that she did.

      2. No you do not get it mHC alum. Even a murderer gets their rights read. What inappropriate behavior of hers are you talking about? How do you know if Maya was being impolite or not? Crying and pleading to the dean that you did not do weed or steal is also inappropriate? You do not get any of it and you do not live in a world of reality. We are not talking about Maya breaking the rule when she was in a vacant room. We are talking about how everything was handled. They did not write her up for being in the wrong place. They did not question her about the weed and then they wrote to the dean based on their terrible sense of smell. How is saying she did not do it being impolite and disrespectful? A police cannot arrest you for being impolite.

    2. Are some of you kidding me? You should check your privilege. Maya got arrested for being in a room. Since when is that a criminal offense?-especially at MHC where we have onecard access to many buildings. The point is a student was accused of multiple offenses and then arrested when all she wanted was to get her stuff and leave. I don’t think you understand two important things 1 just because you wear the uniform, this does not make you the law and 2 laws cannot help those it was not made to protect. You are missing the whole point; assumptions are made about people of color all the time. When you are white you can be whoever you want to be. When you are black and in a situation of conflict people usually don’t think twice about labeling you as the trouble maker. Furthermore, she was not read her Miranda Rights. Honestly though I feel that if you can’t understand this article, your MHC education has failed to offset your provincialism and bias.

  5. Maya, none of this would have happened had you simply accepted responsibility for violating the rules and policies you agreed to follow and honor when you matriculated at Mount Holyoke. First, you were inhabiting a space which you had no right to be in, yet from what you write in your post, you felt entitled to use the space not only as a study spot or hang out for yourself and fellow residents, but as a party pad cum love nest for you and your boyfriend. If anyone, let alone a campus police officer, asked you to leave, you should have, especially since you do have a room that is yours right down the hall. Second, and possibly most importantly, you admit to drinking alcohol. How much you drank, you do not go into detail, but enough that it influenced your behavior and, without question, affected your perception of this entire situation. I say this because, Maya, when you drink, even if you are of age, even if you are not drunk, you are not as sharp and perceptive and with it as when you are not drinking. It’s science. At the very least, you were drinking to the point of being loud. You were loud enough to disturb fellow residents, and to the point that perhaps that you were and your friends were being so aggressively loud, that a neighbor felt threatened and thus compelled to call public safety in order to get you and your group to break it up. You argue that your neighbors owe you a visit before making that call. No, they do not. I would venture a guess that had a neighbor confronted you you would have acted hostile and escalated the situation instead of just accepting responsibility for being disruptive. If you were indeed a mature and accountable adult, particularly if you weren’t being loud, you could have taken it upon yourself to tell your friends who were being loud to quiet down. You could have kicked them out of (not) your room. And, if you were being a real, resolute, reasonable adult, you could have simply called it a night, packed up your things, and gone back to your (for real, assigned by residential life) room and gone to sleep. You had so many opportunities (I love how another commenter mentions possible litigation stemming from this as an “opportunity”. Good lord.) but you refused to act like a mature adult. Instead, you chose to argue with public safety. It sounds like they did indeed lob allegations that were somewhat unfounded. And yes, they probably did go into the situation with their minds made up, before they even saw who was causing the disturbance, because all college students regardless of ANYTHING can get loud and annoying and cause disturbances. Those officers have been doing this much longer than you have been at the school. From their perspective and professional experience a loud group on a weekend night is more than likely the result of drinking and perhaps a bit of pot smoking. Have you ever read the campus safety log? That’s their bread and butter. Campus safety is charged with ensuring YOUR safety. They’re not the gestapo. They’re not out to get you and their certainly not looking for a shoot out or an opportunity to use the taser. The officers came to tell you and your group to disperse. They wanted to make sure that the residents of the hall, including YOU, were safe and that no one, including YOU and YOUR friends, was in harm’s way. You were adamant that you were being treated unfairly and felt threatened. In turn, campus safety called the dean on duty as a means to help you calm down and alleviate the anxieties you expressed. If they were city police officers, they would have carted you off to jail immediately, not because of your skin color but because you were out of control and acting hysterical. That’s real life. You couldn’t be reasoned with, even by the dean on duty who, it sounds like, tried to offer support. By your own account, you were hysterical and inconsolable and no one could reason with you even your very well-meaning boyfriend who, again, by your own account, was acting on your behalf and doing as much as he could to defend you. Mount Holyoke has a judicious and fair disciplinary process for students accused of violating rules and policies. Even if you had been written up and referred to your dean, you would have been allowed the chance to voice your side in a safe, judgement free, sober and calm environment. Any allegations against you would have been investigated and you would have been granted due process. Regardless of your race, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, political affiliation, you were violating Mount Holyoke policies and breaking rules in place in the residence halls to maintain a comfortable and safe environment. You refused, and still refuse, to take responsibility for your actions. Instead of simply accepting that you become argumentative and confrontational to the point that you were entirely out of control and had to be taken to SHPD, you pin this on your race. Sorry, I wish I could find ANY way that this has even an iota at all to do with race, but it does not. In fact, I’m wholly pissed that you would deign to shunt the resulting consequences of your poor behavior and bad choices on the color of your skin. You have SO MUCH privilege Maya, simply by virtue of the fact that you are a student at an elite college who has the luxury of friendly campus cops to tell you to shut up before hauling you off to be booked in the local jail. Your perception of this entire incident from start to finish offends me. Please examine your behavior and your role in this instead of coming to the conclusion that public safety, the college administration, and the local police force were out to get you because you are a woman of color. I hope that you try viewing this through another lens instead of making this incident a racially charged blame game and acting as a victim.

    1. That was a long post for someone who wrote so many details while missing the details in Maya’s account. Maya was not refusing to take responsibility. She was refusing to take responsibility for something she has not done which was smoking pot. Also no one read her her rights. There are many students who go through school trouble-less and have no idea what happens when they are referred. I actually had no idea of what that is and what the whole judiciary process works and anyone being confronted would want to defend on the spot especially if it is their first run-in. It is unclear if she knew she had another chance and even if she were there is nothing wrong in stating you did not do something. When she was told to leave she was going to leave with her things right away. It doesn’t matter how much experience the officers had and what bread and butter they were taking. If you don’t have proof someone was doing weed you don’t write that up in a referral. If they were concerned with HER SAFETY they would have stopped the boyfriend from trying to talk to her. I could go on but it’s a bit hard to pin point the main topics in your long letter mixed with “life lessons.”
      But one thing, you are actually seeing her piece through your emotional “offended” lens and seeing all the wrong she has done while cutting a lot of slack to others. Maya has not blown things out of proportion nor did she say others were “out to get her.” She has the right to question the role of race in this situation and what made it so easy for her boyfriend to grab his stuff when she wasn’t. She is not playing a blame game here. At last, I want to say people always make mistakes and do not know how to react every moment in their lives. It is unfair for you to come and list all the “If you had”s. We do not know what better action would have lead to what consequences especially seeing these officers were headstrong over certain things. This IS what happened and the discussion should be if they would be if what they did was fair at all.

    2. There are a fair few assumptions made in your comment. I don’t know Mt. Holyoke’s rules, but I went to one of the Five Colleges and drinking in the privacy of the dorm was always treated as acceptable by persons of age. I even recall asking Pubs about it once at Mt. Holyoke.

      I tend to play by the rules, but I’m also a person of color. I don’t look it, but my full name gives it away. Sometimes people make the connection, sometimes they don’t, but when they make it and they care, you can see the change happen right before your eyes. They start treating you differently and, as a 6’3″, 240 lb. male, it feels disempowering. I can only imagine how it feels for people who don’t take up a doorway, or for women, who are already treated as second-class citizens in college environments.

      Rules are violated all the time in college, by goody-two-shoes and malcontents alike. It’s the responsibility of Public Safety and the deans to defuse these sorts of situations. When unwanted physical contact is being made between ANY parties, it is supposed to be standard procedure to back everyone to their separate corners. My college employed a head of public safety who would sit students in a bare room and interrogate them under a heat lamp for hours on end about the most innocuous things. He even did this to a student-director for a prop he used in a play. He tried to do it to me, and I got up and walked out, because I know my rights, but he got away with doing this to many others for years. Public safety is rarely, if ever, watchdogged at a campus the way it should be.

      The correct approach here would’ve been for the dean to recognize that – whomsoever was at fault – the situation at hand needed to be defused first and foremost. She should’ve had one public safety officer leave with the boyfriend, take his account, verify his belongings, record his driver’s license or I.D. info and let him go. She should have had the other public safety officer wait outside while she took down Maya’s account, verified her belongings, recorded her license or I.D. info, and then addressed the situation in the morning.

      Campus police are allowed to take students into custody on a regular basis for things no police officer would ever consider, as the court’s response showed in this circumstance. And if you think the same kind of racial profiling that happens with real police doesn’t happen among lesser-trained security personnel who often work those jobs because they were rejected as real police, Kafka would like to have a word with you.

      Furthermore, if an arrest took place without reading Maya her rights, she has a potential lawsuit on her hands for unlawful arrest and illegal detainment, and Mt. Holyoke would be smart to address this specific situation with a gracious hand and humble words rather than having a publicity nightmare on their hands.

    3. This reply is half based on assumptions (that they were using the space as a “party pad cum love nest”, that she was drunk enough that the alcohol affected her behavior, that she would have acted inappropriately if asked by a neighbor to be quieter, that she was acting “out of control and hysterical” etc.) and half based on ridiculous levels of unchecked privilege.
      You ignore the fact that her white boyfriend was guilty of breaking the same rules that she was (being in a space that wasn’t theirs), and yet was treated entirely differently. And yet you are sure this has nothing to do with race.
      You admit that the officer’s accusations were unfounded, and it was the unfounded accusations that she was speaking out against. I’d love to see how you’d react if a police officer walked up to you and hit you with some false accusations. According to this account, Maya never yelled or lashed out physically. First, she went about a reasonable attempt to prove that she wasn’t stealing. When she was upset and crying (understandably, as no one was listening to her and her boyfriend was repeatedly disrespecting her request for space), she said she cried quietly in the corner. There is no account here of her being hysterical or out of control to the point that she deserved to be arrested (as the bail clerk recognized); she was upset for very valid reasons that have very much to do with gender and race.
      And you say you’re offended. If your life is so privileged that you have nothing better to be offended by than a woman of color being upset and telling a story about an injustice she faced, you have some serious self-reflecting to do.

  6. Maya,

    I’m very sorry you had to go through this. I think many of us alums are concerned and would eventually like an update when you get the chance. While I never had issues with public safety as a student, I do know of others who weren’t treated fairly, and I am deeply sorry for both you and them.

    While I could see you getting in trouble for drinking in a room that was not yours (not because you were underaged), this situation was wholly blown out of proportion, and you were treated unfairly and unequally. I hope your voice is heard and you get a dialogue going to try and set this to rights, starting with our school.

  7. Will be taking this up with the board of trustees and the administrators. Thanks for sharing and for starting this important conversation.

  8. This is horrific. I am so sorry this happened to you and I am so sorry that there are people on this page who refuse to see this as an incident of racism and sexism on the part of the campus police and the dean.

    I haven’t been at MHC for about 10 years, but the extent to which students of color were held to a different standard than white students seems to remain the norm.

    If you pursue further action, or start a dialogue with any campus officials and would like alum voices and support, please let me know.

  9. I can possibly buy that people (officers, Sam, Dean) responded somewhat differently than they might have to a white male in the exact same set of circumstances. But it doesn’t sound like your actions were at all appropriate or reasonable. It sounds like you were unreasonable and hostile right from the beginning and the whole situation could have been avoided. And yes white men get arrested all the time for being unreasonable and hostile.

    It’s generally a good idea to be calm, cooperative and polite to law enforcement officers whether you are black, white, male or female.

  10. Sounds like there may have been some jerk actions by the police, but also a lack of personal responsibility by the writer:

    1) Occupy a room that isn’t yours with alcohol and your boyfriend – and blame others for not confronting you instead of calling police. And you’ve since described what happens when people confront you. I would call the police too. It’s
    2) Absolutely no recognition/responsibility that those actions were against policy
    3) Noted that you didn’t say that nobody was smoking marijuana. You said that “you” didn’t smell it, and were upset that others did smell it. So – was anyone smoking marijuana that night there too?
    4) Why not post the voice recording you made?
    5) Ever consider that you were treated differently because you were behaving differently than Sam?

    I can accept that there is racism. Absolutely. What I can’t accept is a person who accepts absolutely zero responsibility for anything when the very premise of the story is being somewhere they weren’t supposed to be, doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. And then getting upset that someone called them on it?

  11. Anyone insisting that this has nothing to do with race and if you had just calmed down it would have been different is racist. Probable nice, decent, well meaning people but racist none the less. Ignoring a black women when she talks about her experiences with unfair treatment is racist no matter what. And I thank you whole heatedly for not blindly accepting the idea that in modern America we have to do whatever the police say all the time with no questions. We are actively relinquishing our rights for “security” in a way that has led to rights abuses and innocents dead at the hands of out of control police forces all over the country. Blind acquiescence to authority is the first step toward authoritarianism. I admire people like you who refuse no matter the cost. Thank you.

  12. For all the fuss that those of you are making over whether or not Maya should or should not have been in that room, doing whatever she was doing, the fact is that she was. This is not the issue being addressed in her piece.

    Rather, Maya is seeking to address the fact that the situation was mishandled by the administration in several ways:
    1. They failed to read her Miranda rights to her.
    2. They treated two parties both found at the scene with very different levels of respect indicating a racial and gender bias.
    3. They made accusations of theft and drug use without sufficient evidence, but did not allow her to quickly clear up the situation by disproving these accusations on scene with her own counter evidence and pouting out their lack of evidence.
    4. They allowed an individual to speak to and touch a student who continually requested to be left alone, essentially letting her person be disrespected.
    5. The dean and police both acted in an overall patronizing manner to the student, only adding to the anxiety of the situation instead of mediating the situation as they should be trained to do.

    Although Maya’s actions are not irrelevant to the episode, I would say that the minor infraction has no bearing whatsoever on the matter at hand, which is essentially the issue of Mount Holyoke College’s severe disrespect and lack of tact, and overall shameful behavior that yet again shows how out of touch the administration is with the student body it pretends to serve.

    Too bad the only people who took the survey about the state of the school recently were probably those who who were already working closely with the administrative offices and therefore felt adequately “in touch.”

    1. Seriously though, thank you for sharing this experience with us. If you decide to move against the administration please let me know what I can do to help.

  13. As a person of color (Asian), I understand what you go through every day. Even living in the Mt. Holyoke “bubble” doesn’t keep us away from all the blatant racism and stereotyping that happens around us. I have long suspected the administration to put the college’s interest (whatever it is at this point) above its students and this incident just proves the point. Being an activist, I understand how hard it might have been for you to bow down to such a blatant act of discrimination. Additionally, the inability of pubsafe and the Dean to respect your rights to be away from an unwanted person just shows the level of racism we fight everyday. If anyone had to be arrested, it would be Sam, for trespassing after you made it clear that you didn’t want him there.

    A Dean just sent the college an email saying It is our
    plan to hold these small group conversations in the residence halls.”, as if this would lead to anything productive. Unless we come out and loudly voice our opinions, there isn’t going to be any change. Sadly, I see the effort as some sort of PR damage control.

    Thank you for writing about your experience and voicing the opinions of so many in Mt. Holyoke.

  14. I see a lot of people using words such as reason and being rational and calm. The fact that someone does not see things the way you do does not make someone else’s perception and actions irrational. It’s actually more rational to acknowledge that a poc woman would know her social reality better than you and even if you toss out the gender and race dynamics analysis and look at cold hard facts, your rationality should inform you that she was not treated fairly at many points especially the part she was not read her rights and arrested.

    As for the emotions part, you all seem to believe anything that has to do with emotions is unreliable and not worthy of any consideration probably internalized through extensive snob-education and indoctrination. You are also falsely believing you are seeing things objectively without emotions attached even though you should be upset at the injustice she had to experience. OR you are sooo upset because something she wrote struck something uncomfortable so you want to find loopholes in the story.

    Your snob education history and “real life experience” should have informed you of how telling someone is being emotional is a method people have historically used to oppress women and POC and you can see that kind of rhetoric and juxtaposition of reason and emotion along side gender and race in every discourse used to discriminate and assigning stereotypes. Many women were denied proper treatment on grounds that they were hysterical even in cases their hysteria was understandable. America goes as far as to call other countries irrational for not catering to American needs. Your effort to find a way to say Maya’s perception was off because of her emotions, is only showing how you buy into the way society has categorized women and poc and popularized such ignorant categorization.

    Many of you are not reaching a conclusion after thinking but cling on the conclusion that the officer’s suspicion of theft was justified and then try to find a reasonable excuse that must have lead them to think so. That is very poor logic. If it is their job to check someone’s belongings regardless of the probability then Sam should have gotten the same treatment and be searched which he wasn’t. What excuse do people give? He was nice and shook hands? So thiefs and swindlers are never nice to others?(it was not Sam who shook their hands it was them shaking his.)

    Maya’s emotional outburst later on (Many people keep saying that according to her account she was not polite and misbehaved. You are not reading the same thing I am because she never says she yelled except later when Sam kept aggravating her.) CRYING IS NOT MISCONDUCT. At the end she was not even charged with theft but arrested for um… pleading and crying in the corner? Because she was basially refusing cooperation when her eyes could not follow orders to “calm down?” (Plus she was calm most of the time.) The Dean agrees she needs to just calm down and the solution is isolating her in a place meamt for people accused of crime when her crime was not calming down?

    I cannot see how.anyome could justify this and say that Maya should have behaved. She is taking responsibility by trying to get the story out so further action can be taken and that public safety and the dean can educate themselves to not repeat the same mistake.
    I am quite sick of all the words I repeated but here is my last bit about emotions. Many people in power are applauded for their passion the anger they express against injustice and mistreatment. It was their gut reaction that told something was wrong in societies that kept rationalizing what was going on. Having emotioms and having them validated is part of healthy living. If something you perceive as your reality and it makes you feel a certain way you have a right to respond to it. So you all should just shove your emotional discomfort against addressing racism down and let her speak about her reality.

  15. I never comment on things like this. But today, I will comment.
    I am an MHC student. I am white. I am a cis-gendered female. I am straight. I am a domestic student. I am not overweight. I am able-bodied. I do not have an identified disability of any kind. I am middle class. By these identifiers, I have privilege, and I will not deny this. We all carry marks of privilege along with marks of oppression throughout our lives. Despite my marks of privilege, I too have experienced oppression of various kinds, just as I believe we all have.
    Maya’s story is provoking, which is of course why there is a dialogue being created about it and surrounding the issues that arise from it. But I am not here to talk about Maya’s story, whether or not her actions were right, whether the actions of others were right or racist or sexist or not.
    I am here to say that as a Mount Holyoke woman, I am told to never fear change. And change begins with dialogue. And dialogue begins with open minds. So let’s stop arguing about whether or not this story is an example of racism within authority at Mount Holyoke.
    Let’s talk, instead, about how to change Mount Holyoke–the policies, check-and-balance systems, trainings, and procedures–so that no matter what identifiers mark them as privileged or oppressed, students here can go through their years without experiencing any unsettling events of this nature.
    Admit our individual privileges. Admit our individual experiences of oppression. Admit our assumptions, prejudices, ignorances. Admit our emotional reactions.
    This is the only way we can progress toward our true goal.

  16. I do not go to Mount Holyoke, but I go to a similar school in the region. I am a white, cisgendered, heterosexual male. Yet, I have been repeatedly harassed by campus police for incidents that they already knew I had nothing to do with. Might it be rent-a-cops exercising their minuscule authority over those from whom it counts? They could not do much of anything to Sam, since he did not go to Holyoke. Maya, though, as a student, is fully under their sphere of influence.

  17. Do people not realize that being passive and not very assertive leads others to believe that you are not innocent? People who remain quiet and polite also get in trouble. It’s like when you are so nervous about telling the truth that the lie detector believes you are lying. You can’t really win a game by “behaving appropriately” though we all try to be reasonably appropriate. It’s silly to say Maya did something that must have been inappropriate to make the officers arrest her. Mind you she was not arrested for being in the room she was not supposed to be in but for “breaching peace.”

  18. I know this is going to be controversial here, but based on what you have written and the tone that came through, have you considered that maybe you actually needed to calm down? You write that you “pleaded with the dean, to the point where I was in tears,” which to me suggests that both the police officer and Sam had good reason to be concerned. Maybe this is an opportunity to reflect on the the way that you choose to see the world and maybe try and work through these issues.

  19. WOW. How do i keep coming across things that kill my interest in MHC? What’s the point of coming if i’ll be identified as a criminal for being black, when all i want to do is go to a good college? Things need to change, for real.

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