Saturday, August 13, 2011

a message to my St. Ann's friends

This was sent by personal message to a group of 26 members of the St. Ann's Faculty/Alumni group of Facebook, in response to a long message by Dave Samuels:

Dear David and friends,

David, I appreciate your honesty and clarity. My feelings about Stanley and about St. Ann's as an institution were also very mixed. I became quite troubled after about age nine, when my parents divorced just before the great divorce boom; none of my other friends had divorced parents, and I was lonely and confused. Stanley was not sensitive to this, was not supportive of my being in therapy. There was relief, and even joy, in my classes and with my fellow students, but I continued to feel quite alienated and unnoticed by the institution. I was also someone from what seemed a more average family than many of my peers -- we lived in the Heights, but in a modest rental. I was on half scholarship, and my parents struggled financially.

When I started to cut classes and neglect schoolwork, no one noticed or acted on it. No private or family conferences with Stanley were called. I got away with way too much. I did not fulfill the requirements of some classes and was passed anyway.

Toward the end of high school, the institution and particularly Stanley seemed so hell-bent on getting us all into prestigious schools that no one noticed that I didn't have the skills. I managed to escape St. Ann's without ever writing a term paper. I had no study or research discipline. I was admitted to Oberlin, Wesleyan, and Vassar, but instead accepted admission at my "backup" state school. This was because I was 16, had no major in mind, and my mother was very concerned because my family could pay almost nothing toward college and she was worried about the loans I would have to carry. Out of our graduating class of 68, I was one of two who did not attend a private college (and the other had only been admitted to a state school -- she may have been more neglected than I was). Stanley's response to this was to refer to my mother as "an hysterical woman" and then stop talking to me for three months. I always felt like a failure and an underachiever after that, which is basically why none of you saw or heard from me for 35 years.

There is one more thing I've ached to write about, but could not share in our online group as someone involved belongs on Facebook and I believe is in our faculty/alumni group. When I was in art class one day, and left my purse on the bookcase where we all left our books, a change purse was taken from it, which contained a few dollars, and a ring and a pair of earrings I had left in it. I was about twelve. I had seen a few girls standing by that bookcase, and a few days later, I saw one of them brazenly wearing my earrings at school. I was terrified. At the time, I was focused on the fact that someone had done something wrong to me, but in truth, I felt unsafe and terrified. I was not a confrontational person, and I suppose that was a family trait, as my mother suggested that I take the issue to Stanley. I did, and again focused on the fact that I wanted my property returned (the earrings were not costly but they were one-of-a-kind, purchase by me from the Summa Gallery downstairs). He did not seem to understand that I felt unsafe, and sent me away with a vague promise to talk to the girl in question. A month later, I went to see him again, asking if he had spoken to her, and he had not. The subject was never broached again. He never suggested that I speak to her myself, or that my mother should call hers. I have my own ideas as to why Stanley would not confront or punish this girl, but that isn't the point. He did not restore my sense of safety and he permitted the unjust and unfair action to stand without any consequences. He did not do the right thing.

I had some teachers who changed my life, and I now have all of you: blessings beyond blessing. This would not have been the case without Stanley. But Stanley also failed to support me when I had emotional problems, neglected my academic problems, did not provide justice when I was wrong, and behaved childishly when I did not choose the college he wanted me to attend. Stanley was a mixed blessing.

Love to you all,


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