WLU ’21 — Biology Professor

In my freshman year Biology class, I went to office hours frequently because I knew I wasn’t doing very well. I’m a humanities major, I’m not dumb, science just wasn’t my thing, and I expected the professor to understand that as this was an introductory class. Most of my classmates were pre-med, though, so I’m sure I stood out as “the bad student.” Either way, he told me multiple times I should consider transferring because I “don’t belong here.”

I failed our first test, so I went to his office hours for clarification. He continued with his previous comments that didn’t explicitly call me stupid, but he heavily implied that I had no place in his class or at the school. I began to tear up, and I apologized, embarrassed. He gave me a tissue and told me not to worry about it, because “I’m used to girls crying in here.”

I could tell he meant it to be a kind gesture, so I said nothing. 

He made me seriously question my intelligence and capabilities, when his job was to educate. I came in for help and was met with sexism and implicit insult, but somehow it felt like it was my fault for being weak and dumb

WLU ’19 — Math Professor

I also had to take a class with the previously mentioned horrifyingly sexist Mathematics professor. It was Discrete Mathematics, a class that every Computer Science major has to take before graduating, and one that’s very frequently only taught by this professor. I guess they don’t care because most CS majors are men, so it doesn’t matter if the few women feel unsafe, right?

He used to wear unique ties every day to class, making us memorize them for extra credit. For the final he wore one with two “hula girls” on it. He made a very specific point about how they USED to be topless and you USED to be able to see their nipples but his horrible wife made him cover them up. He then proceeded to make the men in the class vote on which woman in the class to name his naked hula ladies after. It was so incredibly demeaning and vile.

My friend got a lower grade on her first exam, nothing she couldn’t recover from, but she wanted to do better and went into his office hours. He told her – to her face – that she clearly wasn’t good at math, she shouldn’t try, and he couldn’t help her. A male friend got the same grade, went to his office hours, and got a full and productive hour of help. 

He also mentioned how much he hated that the school allows women now, because he wants to make sexual comments about women’s bodies but the “overly sensitive” female students would get upset.

Most egregiously of all – and the reason why I never reported him (though I’m ashamed for it all the same) – was that on the very first day of class he sized all of the women up, looked us each in the eye, and told us a “funny story” about how some “crazy” student tried to file a Title IX report against him. He found out about it while she was still in his class, and he told us – laughing- that he directly confronted her and got her to admit that he wasn’t actually sexist (because I’m sure she has no reason at all to be afraid) and retract the report. It was a warning to us. If we tried to report him, he would find out, and he would intimidate us into silence.

I had panic attacks almost daily because of his behavior. I feel sick thinking about him to this day.

WLU Prospective — Connected

Class of 2023

College was always a far-fetched dream coming from an immigrant family in the South. When I got into W&L I was thrilled, and when I learned I was awarded a Johnson Scholarship I was even MORE thrilled. A full-ride scholarship to an amazing university! During the weeks leading up to college decision day, my interaction with W&L was the complete opposite of the cute advertised brochures and videos. I heard, witnessed, and experienced in my visit to W&L discrimination for being a gay Mexican-American. 

A professor commented on my “good English” while a student expressed he was surprised “queers” would attend “his” school. I absolutely loved W&L, but ended up turning down this amazing place due to those few incidents. 

Now that I’m at a different college, I still yearn to call W&L my home, but I know that I am not strong enough to handle the abuse for being me. I love myself too much for that. While I may not be your definition of a W&L community member, I still feel a part of this school, and I hope that one day my kids can attend this school without having to worry about being attacked for their identity.

WLU ’21 — Uncomfortable

At W&L one of the most uncomfortable moments in class for me was in my junior year marketing seminar. I am mixed race, half-Chinese and half-Caucasian. While the professor was lecturing the class about food brands, out of nowhere, mid sentence the professor turns to me and asks about an obscure Asian soft drink from Japan in front of the entire class, as if I were to know about it.

I am totally caught off guard, and sit still for a moment not really believing that she was asking me this in the middle of class. I look around and notice that everyone in the room is staring at me waiting for an answer. I was shocked and caught with an overwhelming feeling of embarrassment and shame. I had absolutely no clue what it was. I look back at her and say, “Um, um, uh, I don’t know what it is” and give a small laugh to try to play off how uncomfortable I was feeling.

I immediately looked back down at my notebook and pretend to be writing something, not wanting to look up or make eye contact with anyone.

WLU ’21 — Reality

I constantly question whether the education we receive actually outweighs the shitty people we have to deal with. The sad part is I knew I would feel this way ever since I visited campus for the Johnson Scholarship Competition (I had never even heard of W&L until I started applying to random liberal arts schools on the east coast).

I was shocked by how ingenuine students were and the endless disparities between what the school wants you to think it is and reality. I even had a professor say during one of my interviews that “we don’t have anything for you here” in regards to my academic interests. (They were wrong.) That night I called my mom crying swearing that under no circumstance would I go to W&L. However, when we received my merit scholarship offer, we couldn’t turn it down -and that’s how I got here.

WLU ’19 — Crossing Lines

TW: Mention of rape

After seeing some other stories about the same professor, I figured I would share my experience as well. 

I went to his office in order to catch up on what was covered during a Writing Center meeting I had to miss during my senior year. He closed the door, which felt very strange—I never experienced a professor, let alone a male professor, do that. His office blinds were drawn, and he sat between me and the door.

As a survivor of sexual assault, all of these things had me on high alert. We discussed the Writing Center and he caught me up from a meeting I missed, which was fine. But then he wanted to talk about becoming a mentor for a club I was leading, and that was when things took a turn.

He said he would only be a mentor “if it’s worth his time,” and he went into the stories of people he’s been a confidant/mentor for over the years, presumably to prove to me he’d be a good/effective mentor for the students in my organization.

He mentioned that he had “bone chilling stories” (his words) to share of the things that go on at W&L, playing coy and not seeming to want to tell me at first. Of course, I already knew there were plenty of bone chilling things going on, but he seemed to think this would be new information for me.

One story was about a white male student who got a DUI, who he advised to get a lawyer and got out of the charge. Another was “falsely” accused of rape (it didn’t sound false to me the way even he told the story) who he also advised to get a lawyer, and another who was kidnapped by a fraternity during pledging (hazing).

He then said he “hoped I’d never gone through anything as bad as those experiences.”

I wanted to reply that I’ve been raped twice on this campus (and had been writing about it all year) by men exactly like the ones he’s worked to protect, but I decided it was better to say nothing. Safer. I’d gone numb and into survival mode, trying to get out of the conversation as quickly as I could. After over thirty minutes of these stories, he ended the meeting. I left shaken and dazed, a little unsure of what had just happened, as all of it was inappropriate.

I reported this incident to my advisor, who told me to share it with the department head, who escalated it to HR. My advisor also spoke to this professor, advising him not to talk or interact with me outside of Writing Center duties.

Some days later, at the senior capstone reading, I came in a few moments late, and this professor stared directly at me (perpendicular to where the students were speaking, so it was very obvious and uncomfortable) until I acknowledged him. I was trying not to acknowledge him because given the social situation I didn’t feel like I needed to-I was late and wanted to pay attention to the capstones. Further, he had already been advised not to speak to me, as I did not want to speak with him, given how uncomfortable he had made me.

Later during the event, he reached to get his cup that was somehow on the ledge on the other side of me. He put his hand on my lower back to reach by, which was completely unnecessary and inappropriate. I do not want to be touched. I do not want to be touched without my consent. I do not want to be touched by a professor that had made me feel so upset and uncomfortable. I shouldn’t have to say that, really

And he especially shouldn’t have touched me after I had reported him (which he had happened to find out about, making me feel even more unsafe and anxious.)

I was always on edge walking around campus for the remaining few months of my senior year, worried I’d run into him and he’d try to talk to me about my report, etc. He was known for crossing lines left and right, so it never seemed out of the realm of possibility.

I don’t think he received much in the way of consequences, but it was an unpleasant and severely anxiety-inducing experience, especially as someone with diagnosed PTSD after being raped twice at W&L. Given the volume of stories about him I’ve heard or read here, ranging from verbal and written harassment to horrific racism to sexual harassment,

HE SHOULD NOT BE EMPLOYED BY THE UNIVERSITY.

WLU ’04 — Embarrassment

Although my story is not nearly as severe as some of the others, when I read horror stories about a male math teacher, I knew right away who it was.

Twenty years ago I was a fall-semester freshman in his class and he was downright mean and rude to me despite that fact that I was struggling to pass.

One day, mid-lecture he stopped to remark to the class that my shoes were the ugliest he’d ever seen. He wasn’t joking. I’ll never forget the embarrassment and shame I felt in that moment; it’s my most salient memory out of four years of classes. The constant berating and making fun of the students was deeply unsettling (except for a few favorites).

A few years later, I was attending a church in Lexington and found out he had been ordained as an elder. I was beyond shocked and horrified to learn that he proclaimed Christianity and was serving as a spiritual leader in the community.

I am disheartened to hear he is still on the faculty and appalled even more to hear that many reports have been made about him with no response from the school.

I’m embarrassed to claim W&L as my alma mater.

WLU ’21 — Unsupported

I had the same English Professor that has come up previously in 2019, and I agree with everything that has been said. I hadn’t heard anything bad about the Professor and personally asked for a space in the course. Boy, was that a mistake. 

This Professor’s “lectures” were filled with sexist and racist claims, virtually unsupported by the text we were meant to be referencing. Whenever students brought up disagreement, it was dismissed, silencing anyone outspoken. 

Some specifics: He claimed that there is no such thing as oppression and that someone cannot be a victim of oppression; that Native Americans were inherently violent and brought about their own destruction by white settlers because of their violence; and pioneer women could not have been oppressed because they did not write about oppression.

I had a requested a one-on-one meeting for an essay, and I have never been so uncomfortable with a teacher in my life; he told me I was quiet and made other veiled sexist remarks. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, I fear. I left every day feeling upset and often horrified. 

There’s a difference between learning from a professor you disagree with (which I have enjoyed in my time in college) and attempting to make it through this garbage. I was able to drop the class and switch into another in the department, but this course is still on my transcript. 

Luckily the English course I moved into was taught by an incredibly welcoming Professor, I just wish I didn’t have to experience this first.

WLU Alumnus — English Professor

As a student of the previously mentioned English professor in several courses, I can agree that he has a way of making the class feel rather uncomfortable. It is hard to describe–I understand that he wants to convey and discuss difficult issues but does so too nonchalantly. 

I refrain from giving precise personal examples because I would be easily identified, but on numerous occasions he instigated discussion about race/gender/socioeconomic status in a way that came off too superficial and void of empathy. I can’t deny that I felt an odd form of embarrassment because of some of his remarks.

What was more concerning was that these much needed discussions were being held in literature classes that were always 100% white.

The students in these classes were usually underclassmen and clearly had little interaction or understanding of the experiences of POC. It was disheartening to witness these conversations, and the professor in question did not have the adequate approach to tackle these important but sensitive topics. I did not think that he was ill-intentioned and know that he tries to help students in his own ways. 

Zooming out of this particular case, W&L ought to have more POC in their classrooms. As much as I agree that it is not on any one group to educate others, I am certain that if there was a significant portion of POC at W&L these kinds of things would be uncovered sooner and conversations would be much more meaningful.

Until then, the said professor and largely white student audiences will be dabbling about the experiences of “the unprivileged class” in a very uninformed and disheartening manner.

WLU ’21 — Thinly Veiled

I’m white, and this didn’t happen to me, but it was nonetheless jarring. In a history class my freshman year, one of my classmates was Asian-American. On our first paper of the course, the professor gave feedback on her writing, saying that “I thought you were from Virginia, but your writing makes me think English is not your first language.” 

I don’t think either of us said anything about it, as this professor was beloved and we were freshmen who didn’t want to rock the boat, but this incident has stayed with me. 

Of course we both wanted to assume he had good intentions, but I can’t think of any way to interpret that comment that excuses the thinly veiled racism.