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Was I right to have been upset about this?

August 7, 2018, 6:18 PM

While participating in a discussion on Reddit, it conjured up the memory of something that happened in my junior year of college that left me a bit unsettled at the time, and on which I never got any closure.  Before I begin, be advised – the events described here occurred more than 16 years ago, so at this point, this discussion is purely academic.

While I was a resident advisor in Potomac Hall in 2001-2002, there were two occasions where I was asked to swap office duty shifts near the end of the year.  On the first occasion, the person who wanted to switch with me told me that it was for a family emergency.  In that instance, I agreed to switch days without question, because I would expect the same thing for me should a similar situation arise for me.  I remember seeing that person in the building that night, and thought, I thought that you had a family emergency, but dismissed it, because that really wasn’t my place to judge.  Then on the second occasion, a different person asked me to switch duty days so that they could attend an awards ceremony.  I said no, because I didn’t want to trade days, and an awards ceremony wasn’t an emergency.  I held my ground on that, but later relented after my hall director, Mecca Marsh, whom I’ve written about previously in this space, turned the colleague’s request into an order from the boss.  So I was a bit annoyed about that, especially since I knew that Mecca would have never taken my side like that should I have been in the same situation.  But in the end, I did as I was told.

Then fast forward a month or so later.  The colleague who swapped shifts with me for the awards ceremony brought a video over to show me.  The video depicted a probate ceremony for an historically black sorority on campus.  I learned a lot from the video, which both of my colleagues were in, because prior to this, I didn’t know anything about how historically black Greek letter organizations worked.  My colleague did a great job in explaining to me what was going on, why it was going on, and the significance of it all.  Then they went on to explain that sorority events were the real reason for the “awards ceremony”, and the other person’s “family emergency”.  They couldn’t tell me what they were really doing because they were sworn to secrecy.

And right there is where they lost me.  I found that I couldn’t be happy for them because I felt a bit betrayed.  I had been lied to, and there was never an apology or anything for how they went about things.  I found using a family emergency as an excuse to go to a sorority event to be especially low, and the awards ceremony excuse to be dishonest at best.  They saw nothing wrong with the fact that they lied to me in order to trade shifts.  Apparently, to them, the ends justified the means, as they were more than happy to lie for their sorority.  I hope that it was worth it to them, because after that, I felt like I could no longer trust them, as they chose their sorority over their jobs.  That wasn’t a good thing when this was a live-in job that required close relationships with one’s colleagues.  Mistrust can be toxic in that sort of situation.

In any case, I found it to be more than a bit unprofessional.  If they were truly sworn to secrecy, then the professional thing to do would have been, when asking for the trade, to say that they needed to swap shifts for something important, but that they were presently not at liberty to reveal what was going on, but that it would all be explained at a later date.  In other words, don’t lie, but acknowledge that there were things going on that couldn’t be discussed yet.  I would have been fine with that.

The whole affair also damaged my working relationship with Mecca, because she blatantly took sides with it and enabled the lying.  I found out from the colleague that showed me the video that Mecca had figured out on her own that the two of them were in the onboarding process for a sorority, asked them about it, and thus was read into the whole thing – which bothered me even more because Mecca never explained to me when making the shift trade a reality that it was something of significance going on that the involved parties couldn’t discuss openly at the time.  I could have handled that, since explanations usually make everything better.  There were so many ways that she could have handled it to get the desired result, but she ultimately chose to just force it on me.

I also felt like I had no outlet to talk through my frustrations at the time, which led it to remain something of an unsettled matter all of these years.  The person who I would normally have discussed my concern about this with, i.e. my hall director, was part of the problem, and this wasn’t important enough to escalate, especially when I would be working under the same hall director again the following year, and didn’t want to burn a bridge just yet.  Notwithstanding Mecca’s direct involvement in this one, there was another reason I wouldn’t go to her on it: when dealing with Mecca Marsh, everything was somehow about race.  I remember an occasion where I used the word “overhaul“, as in a major repair/update/revision, in conversation.  She had not heard the term before, and as such didn’t know what the word meant.  I could handle that well enough, explaining the meaning of the word, and then continuing the discussion.  Instead, she went into a big spiel about how “we are from different cultures” to excuse why she had not heard the word “overhaul” before, derailing the conversation and making it into a racial issue, most likely in a poor effort to mask a lack of self-confidence, and thus a need to hide any possible weakness.  So discussing this matter with Mecca would have been a waste of effort, because I already knew what I would get from that, and it would be unproductive.

I later bounced the whole situation off of an uninvolved colleague to gauge whether I was wrong to be upset about it, and that person was dismissive, saying that the colleagues in question couldn’t disclose what they were doing, so they had no alternative but to lie.  It was not what I wanted to hear (I wanted to be told that I was right to feel slighted), so I left it at that.

So now, with the passage of 16 years, what does the Internet think?  Was I right to have been upset about this?  Was I overreacting?  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

Categories: JMU, Work