I was an office assistant in the Matteo Ricci College from January 2015 to June 2016—17 months to be exact—and I was completed blindsided by the events that transpired last spring. I remember working one of my regular shifts, Wednesday from 1-3. A group of student activists were conducting a rally just a few yards away in the Casey Atrium. Shortly thereafter, I would come to know this group as the ‘Coalition.’ The rumble of the rally began to crescendo. Between the chanting and bullhorns, I barely noticed the phone ringing. It was the provost. He was calling to warn us: “Lock all of the professors’ doors, now.”
As I sat in a slight daze at the computer, the same one I’d sat at for the last 492 days, I watched, dumbfounded, as a wave of students flooded into the office, some of whom I recognized and some of whom I did not. I remember one of the leaders of the Coalition speaking into the bullhorn: “Get comfortable. Make yourself at home. We’re going to be here for a long time.” If only I had noted this foreshadowing at the time. The memories of that day are plagued by a sense of shame. Not a shame over the events that occurred, but a personal shame, a shame of my ignorance at the time; I should have known.
The fact of the matter is, the vast amount of complaints to the college were not something Kelly learned about just a couple days, weeks, or even months in advance. She and former provost Isiaah Crawford had been well aware of the protest’s imminence for years. And they did a damn good job burying it for as long as they did. But why couldn’t I ever see it coming? Why did it take a 24 day sit-in for me to learn the truth about the woman who I had worked a few yards away from for the last 500 days of my life?
I know that other MRC students share this sentiment. Regardless of our opinions to Kelly prior to the formation of the Coalition, it was still shocking and difficult for many to come to terms with the situation. Oftentimes, we are so ingrained in the fabric of an institution that it is difficult, nearly impossible, to see its reality. Sometimes it takes an outsider, or in this case, many outsiders, to illuminate the truth.
It’s sort of like when you’re a child and you view your parents or guardians as these godlike beings. Then as you grow older and shed layers of naivety, you begin to understand their flaws, as well as the ways in which those flaws have negatively affected you. As the sit-in continued I also took away an understanding of the extent to which we, as students of a university, can be barred from the truth.
This does not mean that all of those who work in higher education administration are ill-intentioned. Like every institution, there are good apples and bad apples, and I know that many administrators seek to do good for the community that they serve. However, the checks and balances of those individuals is often minimal, particularly those who run private institutions in which records are incredibly difficult to access.
Because of this, it is up to the students to keep our eyes and ears out for the injustices that surround us, to raise questions, and to demand the truth. As a student journalist, I feel compelled to bring the buried stories to light. As a student of this university, you should also feel compelled to do the same.