When I was a student at the University at Buffalo (UB), I had some really great experiences. In prior posts in this blog, I have described many of my wonderful experiences. I also had many unpleasant, hurtful, and traumatic experiences. Describing about some of these situations, to follow, I will also provide some suggestions to officials at UB so that such situations are not repeated with other students.
1) In 1993, I earned a baccalaureate degree in psychology and a bachelor’s degree in political science. This is a particular detail that is important to me, especially because the University at Buffalo Records and Registration Department (R&R) erred in identifying my accomplishment over a period of 10 – yes 10 – years. Additionally – and while I still very much appreciate it – UB’s President at the time, Dr. William Greiner – also erred on this detail in a recommendation he completed for me, such recommendation that is published in it’s entirety elsewhere in this blog. On my official UB transcript from 1993-2003, R&R reflected that I earned only one BA, however that was incorrect.
When I went to R&R, personally, several times during the course of that decade, no one would listen to me. I was brushed off and not taken seriously at all when I repeatedly told people in R&R that their records were incorrect. Personally, I went to R&R and I wrote letters to several individuals over that period of 10 years until someone finally listened to me, verified that what I stated about my degrees was correct, and corrected my official transcript to reflect both of my degrees earned.
I am sure that anyone in my situation would feel similarly, particularly after experiencing what I have in regard to years of trying to see to it that my educational achievements have been correctly recorded and documented by UB officials. This is particularly important when people read my resume, and other career-related documents, because I list my educational achievement of the two degrees correctly.
When this error was made during that decade, many believed that I was in error, and therefore, also dishonest, when it was UB that was in error. I spent $10,000s on my education, including for the acquisition of my second BA at UB. I also invested an obscene amount of credit hours to earn both of those degrees over a period of less than 3.5 years. It is important, therefore, that UB has it right!
2) In my first semester at UB, I experienced bullying by my roommate. She was often disruptive in our dorm room by coming back in the wee hours of the morning with her boyfriend, who would also spend the rest of the night in our dorm room. She also often moved my things and made many attempts at taking over my space, which we had originally divided evenly. On frigid winter nights, she would also open the window to it’s full four feet, and expect that it would be acceptable to me that we should freeze. She would often turn up her stereo volume loudly when I was quietly studying in our dorm room. And, she had a nasty habit of slamming the door to our dorm room, which as you can imagine, endeared her to everyone on the hall (realize I am being sarcastic here).
I tried to speak with my roommate many times about my concerns, trying to reach agreement and compromise with her, however she always refused. It always had to be her way. Therefore, I repeatedly reported these situations to my graduate resident advisor, and repeatedly asked to move, though he did nothing until a situation occurred in which we were both required to move out of the dorm room as a result of our behavior toward each other. Bullying and the creation of a hostile environment in dorm rooms are issues that UB definitely needs to take more seriously.
3) What I will always remember as a traumatic and negatively life-changing experience at UB was when I was sexually assaulted in my dorm room during my last semester there. Four people were aware of what occurred, though no one reported it. Two of those people became accomplices to the man who raped me by not reporting it. It took me about 2.5 years to gain the courage and overcome the humiliation to report this crime. When I did so at UB, one of the public safety chiefs laughed out loud about what had occurred. I felt like an ant that had just been smashed.
That was only the beginning of the repeated process of revictimization I experienced as a result of this crime that, to this day, has not been resolved to my satisfaction, and regarding which the offender was never charged or prosecuted. Additionally, a description of what occurred, as well the offender’s name and other identifying information such as his birthday (both of which I will always remember, by the way), have been deleted from the report that I filed at UB. I am thankful, however, for the female public safety officer who treated me with kindness and respect. She was the only person in the entire legal process who supported me in any way.
When I attempted to reach out, prior to finally officially reporting the sexual assault, to several UB administrators and/or their family members, I was ostracized and turned away. On a number of occasions, I tried to reach out to UB President Bill Greiner by sending him short correspondence. The answer that I received to my correspondence was from then-Dean of Students Dennis Black, threatening criminal action against me if I continued my communications with Bill! These were communications that were appropriate, and in which I was merely attempting to reach out for some emotional support and assistance. I did not get that from anyone at UB except the female public safety officer who originally took my report, and who was kind and professional toward me.
Shortly after reporting the sexual assault and experiencing repeated revictimization through the legal process of doing so, I wrote and posted about my experience at UB and other area campuses in an effort to educate and inform other students about my experience, in the hope that they would be able to protect themselves against something similar happening to them. One day when I posted my writings at UB, a UB official approached me and told me not to post my information. This only caused me to post and write about it more. Such insensitivity and lack of understanding was incredible to me!
Therefore, I have a number of suggestions to UB officials in regard to these situations. For #1, there should be an audit process at UB that reviews students’ degrees to be sure that the information on record is accurate. For the information about my degrees to be recorded and repeatedly documented incorrectly, over a period of 10 years, and still to the present day, is absolutely unacceptable. Also unacceptable was the treatment that I received by individuals in R&R who repeatedly refused to listen to me, nor consider that my information to them was correct and that they were in error.
In association with #2, all too often bullying and a hostile environment are created when people take no action to stop it and/or resolve the situations. The graduate resident advisor to whom I repeatedly reported these situations did nothing until a serious situation occurred that was unresolvable. Those who oversee the welfare of others must take seriously the issues of bullying and a hostile environment so that worse situations are not provoked into occurring.
Regarding #3, no one was there for me at UB when I was sexually assaulted. When I turned to many people, no one helped me. Being so hurt and humiliated by this violent and traumatizing experience in which I was internally-injured, I blocked it out for a period of a few years before returning to UB to report it, as well as to seek support and assistance for my recovery outside of UB. I have spent $1,000s on my recovery from this painful trauma, such assistance having been a great benefit and self-help for me. For any UB official to minimize, ridicule, disbelieve, overlook, deny, and/or cover up this crime, as well as to revictimize me as the survivor is abominable, and there were a number who did so.
UB can establish programs to support sexual trauma survivors, and can also educate about sexual trauma, including how it occurs and how vulnerable individuals can protect themselves from it. UB can also train it’s officials in regard to responding more sensitively and effectively to those who have experienced sexual traumas on campus.
Individuals at UB are what make up UB. Each individual is a part of the whole, and when any individual is harmed, the whole is also harmed. The institution should not be more important than the individual, however that was repeatedly proven to me in what I experienced. So, while I had many wonderful experiences at UB, many of which I have written about in this blog, I have also experienced these hurtful situations. I expected more from UB, but in regard to these specific situations, I received less. As a result, I am speaking out, and have already spoken out in several capacities, particularly in regard to being sexually assaulted.
UB will not silence me, nor overlook, minimize, or ridicule my experience, nor succeed in revictimizing me. Rather than attempt that, why not take action to help and support survivors and victims of sexual trauma that has occurred on campus? Indeed, I have become an activist and advocate for those who are minimized and bullied, as well as for those who have experienced sexual trauma. I am also a supporter for the recovery of those of all ages, including children, who have suicidal ideation, particularly as a result of sexual trauma.
My experience of being sexually assaulted at UB has been singular in my advocacy for sexual trauma survivors. So, while being sexually assaulted at UB created much hurt and pain in my life, the good thing is that it has caused me to become an advocate for others who have had similar experiences. I also try to be aware of speaking and reaching out to those who will actually be helpful to survivors and victims. Particularly in this area, UB can do better!
Recently, a UB official contacted me via LinkedIn through my personal email account, and requested that I write a recommendation for UB. Due to the above-described information, I am unable to author a recommendation for UB, however information about many of my positive experiences as a student at UB can be found in prior posts within this blog.
There is good and bad everywhere and in everything, however UB still needs to show me that it can get it right with regard to these issues!
Author’s Note (June 5, 2014): Since posting a UB article about Nursing Week, and how UB could potentially take some initiative within the nursing program to implement programs for student survivors of sexual trauma that has occurred on campus, my comments and posts in the LinkedIn group, University at Buffalo Alumni, have been restricted. I have attempted to post additional comments and articles, and have requested of the group manager that I be free to post, however she has responded to me that I am, however she has not approved my comments or posts. Currently, this is the only LinkedIn group (out of 51 groups) in which a manager has not changed my settings to be free to post, nor has approved all of my comments and posts.
It also seems that this is a greater reflection on UB that when controversial issues arise, there are attempts at silencing them. This is another reason why The Spectrum, the student newspaper at UB, is independent of the university – because of the politics involved in students previously being unable to publish freely, without experiencing retaliation, threats, and/or attempts at silencing them from UB officials. My view is that my article is an opportunity for people at UB to take initiative regarding these issues and make improvements rather than attempt to silence them and prevent freedom of speech.