“David f–ckd up,” a friend texted me. “They’re coming to search the room.” David was my only roommate who traveled from outside the country to attend college. He grew up in England. I assumed he couldn’t have done anything that bad. Nothing that would result in real punishment anyway. An RA probably thought David was stashing alcohol in the room like most freshmen do.
“Put all the alcohol in a laundry bin and take it downstairs,” I texted back. Before I could put my phone down, I received an email from the university’s counseling department, which also included a notice from campus police. A counselor indicated that I needed to go to the conference center in my dorm immediately to speak with campus police. Another counselor tagged in the email thread assured me that she would be there to console me “because sometimes, we all get a little sad.”
I wondered why I was being addressed like a PowerPuff Girl. As if they were going to tell me something that’d make me break down and bawl. Something was definitely up. What did David get into now? Two campus police officers and two counselors were waiting for me. One didn’t possess a consoling nature at all. He sat up straight, and his shoulders were stiff. This was going to be interesting.
After introductions, they proceeded to ask me a series of questions: Has David mentioned anything about knives? Are there any knives in your room?
All of my responses were the same–“No.”
This line of questioning lasted about ten minutes. Every question revolved around knives and other weapons. Finally, the female counselor said that the two campus police officers were going to search my room. We went and to my room and they searched, but the two officers didn’t find anything. No weapons. No Knives.
When they left the room, the friends who had sneaked out the alcohol were waiting outside. During the half-hour search of the dorm room, a girl on the floor revealed to them what the counselors had not. She had reported David to the counselor’s office because David told her that he wanted to “stab” one of his roommates.
This girl was a fool. We were four men sharing one bathroom in our first semester of college. There was going to be some disagreements, but there would be no stabbing. We all had tested nerves, but assuming the worst? She should’ve left well alone. It wasn’t not her fault–she probably just misheard what David said.
The school screwed this up, not her. The school butchered this whole thing. But where the hell was David this whole time? I texted him and waited nearly three hours for his response. The school decided that David should be settled indefinitely into the psychiatric floor at the university’s hospital. His parents would have to fly all the way from England to sign him out.
Later, I learned from David that he did tell the girl that he felt like “stabbing” one of my other roommates. That must have put her in a difficult position. I can’t judge her for thinking David was talking crazy. But it made me wonder how I never noticed anything strange about him before. Emotions are tricky, and they can look like a lot of different things.
Two of my roommates and I, including the one who had been threatened, decided to schedule a meeting with the head of the counseling department the next day to protest the treatment that David received. He wasn’t a diseased calf, and shouldn’t have been moved into quarantine like one. We didn’t think it was right for the university to ship David across the Atlantic and be dealt with as some sort of proxy problem. Alex, the roommate who was threatened, agreed, though he did feel strange about the whole ordeal.
The man who met us smiled a blinding white smile, a steady grin. I don’t know how he managed to talk through it. It was hard to be cordial with this Dr. Smile character. We didn’t want to be too forward with our grievances, so we left deflated with vague assurances that David would be back soon as the doctor’s smile shined on our backs. My roommates and I learned David would fly back to England in two days as the university carried out a full investigation into his case. He would need to be monitored by a counselor, and if the counselor reported back normal behavior, David would be invited back to school the next semester.
We saw David that night before he had to be back at the psychiatric ward. He acted like the mild-manned character we all knew him to be. Maybe he was a little more melancholy, but he was calm. He seemed to have accepted his fate. He expected to be back the next semester, but he wouldn’t come back until the next year, continuing his studies a semester behind.
This must be what that college independence talk is all about. If there’s a bright side to adulting, there’s got to be a dark side too. The counseling department had a broken philosophy. David never received a trial by his peers. Instead, university protocols sent him home. We are told to prepare for reality, but reality always seems to be a surprise when it shows its face. What’s important is to carry it with you lightly, and to remember what it looks like. Only then can you anticipate reality before it smiles its consequences at you.