Monday, October 20, 2008


So, I had a student in my office the other day that just creeped the absolute **** out of me. I felt the little hairs on the back of my neck stand up and got the goose pimples and queasy stomach as soon as he walked in my office. I hate that. How do you know when to believe that instinct and when to just ...pass it off as an overactive imagination?

I've had that feeling before when I worked at Ohio U. I had this student who really never did anything bad, although I'm pretty sure he was supplying alcohol to underagers. I just couldn't help but feel confrontational when I saw him. He brought out this icky squicky feeling in me that was either fight or flee. I thought perhaps it was just me, that I was judgemental because he had that 'cocky, popped collar, frat guy attitude'. Then one halloween my grad student, JS, and I were sitting at the front desk watching the drunk kids stumble back in. My grad was chit chatting away and this student walked in and she got very quiet, very still, very ....tense. I watched her reaction to his presence and when he left I asked her if she knew him. She said no and then said "he's not a good person." I asked what she meant and she said, "i dont know. I can just tell. He's NOT a good person."

So what is it? What made both of us feel like that? Does he have some kind of negative energy that surrounds him like a black cloud trailing in after him? What caused that instinct to arise?

Most of my friends who work with college students have a student that stands out in their minds. My best friend from OU, the Cornelia Marie, had a student her first year that she to this day swears had no soul. She was gut-instinct-FRIGHTENED by him. He never did anything to her...he wasn't even the guy that threw the George Foreman grille at her. He was scarier than that guy. It was just instinct that something was not quite right with this young man.

It isn't even as if it's just the male students and we're feeling "vulnerable' as women. I have had female students that creeped me out just the same. I had one woman who I swear would have pulled the wings off butterflies had she been given the chance. I had to call the police once to have her removed from my office. After she was removed from my building, I felt like I had to check over my shoulder when walking past her new home because she might just be crazy enough to do something to retaliate.

It's different than the instinct that you just really dont like someone. That you know you'll never be friends. I worked with a guy, a grad student, who I just always thought was a smarmy bastard. He was always doing things that made him seem like suuuuuuuuuuch a great guy. He was an advocate for preventing sexual assault and all kinds of great stuff. But, I just couldn't like him...always felt guilty about it because everyone else seemed to think he was "fab." This instinct is different though.It's not just recognizing smarminess or even recognizing that someone is troubled or going through a lot or maybe they would be better off in counseling with meds. It's scarier than that.

After the Virginia Tech tragedy, a professor came out saying that she had always felt that there was something wrong with the student who would become that campus shooter. "I know we're talking about a troubled youngster and crap like that, but troubled youngsters get drunk and jump off buildings; troubled youngsters drink and drive," Giovanni said. "I've taught troubled youngsters. I've taught crazy people. It was the meanness that bothered me. It was a really mean streak."

She knew. She said she would have been shocked if it wasn't that student when she heard on the news about the tragedy.

So, when do you believe your instinct? It's not like there's some magic folder in a vault on campus that we can put our notes in that says "dude could be crazy mean, no proof...just a feeling." It bothers me.

I know that little that I do will prevent anything in the world from happening. I can hope and I can pray for the safety of all my friends and colleagues, and I can be vigilant where I can. But there's always the "sleeper." That you never saw coming. Did you know Jeffrey Dahmer once attended Ohio State? He lived in a residence hall. I wonder what people's instincts told them about him.

Conversely, I'm incredibly glad that my life to date has been so untouched by tragedy. I am glad that my sister is at a school that has emergency text messaging and that her residence hall is very safe and secure. I am glad that my university has plans and protocol for the What Ifs. I feel safe here. My office is great and we look out for eachother. We even have a 'code word' for when we might need help. It makes me feel a little bit better about those students that make me feel vulnerable.

That was a depressing post...I just needed to get it off my chest. Since that student was in, I hadn't been able to really stop thinking about him. Blah.


3 things:

that the girls in my office look out for eachother and walk to the garage together at night
that the weather is beautiful and it feels as if nothing could go wrong today
for feeling secure and comfortable where i am.


Blue said...

oohh Ann. i don't know what to say other than that perhaps this feeling is given to you so that you CAN be more aware and alert. Maybe there *should* be some kind of system for people in positions like yours to lodge such feelings. why on earth NOT?

At least you know it's not just you in the case of this guy. That's something to keep in mind. And maybe have some kind of self defense available ( key chain pepper spray etc.) Listen to your gut/instinct/spirit etc....whatever you want to call it...when you get those little promptings. They're there for a reason.

Be safe!

Katie said...

I think one should go with his/her gut feeling no matter what. Most the time mine means I'm hungery. ;)

thanks for stopping by my blog! :) I definitely will be back to check yours out!

Donn24g said...

I definitely agree, your instincts were given to you for a reason. Whenever you feel unsettled/unsafe, you have nothing to lose (and everything to gain) from removing yourself or changing the circumstances.

I've definitely have been in situations were i felt this way and have been paralyzed with fear. You should add to your list the insight to know the difference:)

Stay safe!

Debra W said...

I have four daughters and the one thing that I constantly try to ingrain into their minds is to FOLLOW THEIR INSTINCTS. If something doesn't feel right, there is most likely a reason for that.

Good for you for keeping your guard up and being aware. That can be the first step in staying safe.

Tiffany said...

I agree with the others - follow your instincts. That bit of fear is there for a reason. Sobering post for me to read - my daughter will head off for college in just a few years. Scary.


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