It’s Not As Bad As It Looks: My Campus Criminal Record
I’M TECHNICALLY ON DEFERRED SUSPENSION
Last year was a crazy year for me. I got in some pretty deep trouble with the administration.
Maybe you know me, maybe you don’t. If you don’t know me, I’m the type of guy who says stuff like “Wowwee” and cries during plays/movies/songs/nights out/certain commercials. I always buckle my seatbelt. I only skip class if I sleep through it. Three years ago I stepped on a lizard by accident, and it haunts me to this day. I am a square. A dork, dweeb, lame-o. Ask around, many people will verify. So how in hell did I get in capital-T Trouble with the administration?
Well it wasn’t the two times I got good sam’d…
I GOT GOOD SAM’D TWICE
So just real quick:
- Last year for Halloween I went as David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust makeup, lightning bolt, etc.) and drank about the amount a football player drinks in a night, in about an hour. If I could only be good sam’d once, this would be the time I most needed it. It was probably the closest I came to death on campus. But I did dress up as David Bowie after all.
- I vomited in the trash can in my room, lamenting that I couldn’t digest the Chipotle I paid so much money for earlier that day. When I looked up, I saw that my roommate called campus safety.
- “You called campus safety?” I asked him. “Jesus Christ.”
- “Let’s put him to bed,” one of them said, but before they could get to me I picked myself up and put myself to bed. “We think he’ll be fine,” they said to my roommate.
- Roommate: I had to call them, you kept shivering!
- Me: It was February. I was cold!
MY ENCOUNTER WITH THE SHERIFF
The last possible night at Kenyon last year, the end of sophomore year, I ended up in the graveyard up north. I was there with three of my friends, and we were lamenting how they would all be going abroad next year, one of them for the full year, and how we wouldn’t all see each other again for a long time. We all cried, not just me okay. We only stopped when we saw the headlights of the Sheriff’s car.
“Guys, let’s walk,” my friend said, and we did, heads down, totally casual, just four kids in a graveyard past midnight. But it was no use. Four drunk kids cannot outrun even the slowest moving of police cars. The lights come on us, exposing our shame. The Sheriff does not even need to get out of the car, his face still shrouded in darkness.
“What are you kids doing out here?”
“We’re just talking.”
“Can I see your K-Cards?” he asked.
This is it, I think. Two good sams, a run-in with the administration, and now I’m going to get arrested for being drunk in a graveyard. How can any of this be real life? Am I going to have a mugshot?
We give them over, and the Sheriff stares them over with a little flashlight for a long time. The silence is unbearable. I am sure we are all fucked.
“You kids really shouldn’t be out here. This is private property. You’re trespassing.”
“We didn’t know,” someone says.
“Yeah I didn’t know,” I add, helpfully.
“Mhm. Well, it’s really not fair you all being out here. You know, people are dying to get in here.”
“Do you get my joke?”
We laughed the same way people laugh when a dictator tells a joke. He kept going.
“People are paying to get in here I’m telling you!” We keep laughing. He tells us to go on home, we have a good sense of humor. We cannot believe we go to this cartoon college.
OKAY, SO WHY ARE YOU ON DEFERRED SUSPENSION?
The short version is, I forged my advisor’s signature.
The long version is that I didn’t have an advisor until spring semester sophomore year. I was given a philosophy advisor for my first year. She then went on maternity leave, and I had a guy who gave me my PIN, but ultimately I had no advisor, and knew no one in the English department well enough to be my advisor. Except for one professor, who volunteered to be a temporary advisor just so I could declare my major.
“You know this other professor is really looking for advisees, he could really help you.”
“Couldn’t you just sign it? While I’m here?”
She glares. “Fine.”
Another weird thing about spring semester sophomore year: two of the classes I registered for were by professor permission only, and despite getting permission, I couldn’t get into any of them on registration day. So I had to get an add/drop form to get into those classes. I got their signatures again, embarrassed in my explanations. But my fake advisor was busy all week, and I was scared as hell to even ask her (it being really not her job), so the night before add/drop day I had no advisor’s signature. At the time, I thought this meant I couldn’t take these classes, and thus I’d be taking two classes all semester, neither of which were terribly important to me. I panicked, forgetting until the last minute I needed my fake non-existent advisor to sign off on classes I already had the professor’s permission to take. This was the essence of the sweaty, stuttering, rant I rambled on to my two friends in my room at 1 a.m. that night.
“Just forge it,” one of them said.
I paused. “Nah, I can’t do that.” Though what I meant really was, “Surely that’s not possible?”
“Yeah, I’ve done it before. Lots of people have. Just forge it, they won’t be checking.”
Admittedly, I did this sort of thing in high school quite a bit. It was encouraged. If my parents couldn’t make it to a permission slip “Just sign our names for us,” my father said. “Here, here’s how you do mine, it’s just a little squiggle and then a line across.”
If I needed community service hours, or teacher permission to go on a sporting event, as my mother told me, “What are you gonna do, call her up, ask to sign off a sheet of paper ‘cos you shoveled her driveway eight months ago?” Begrudgingly: “You really don’t have another option here.”
“Lots of people have. Just forge it. They won’t be checking.”
You really don’t have another option here.
“Okay, okay let me try it.”
I actually couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, not out of an ethical shame, but because I was nervous I’d get the signature wrong. I tried practicing it, but my nerves got the best of me.
“Here. I’ll just do it,” my friend said, taking the pen and doing the signature. My friend didn’t know this professor’s name, so maybe having him forge the form was a bad idea. I probably could’ve faked it, but I was beside myself. Maybe the only crime I really committed was being a coward. Of course, they don’t suspend you for being a coward. Sometimes they give you an MFA for it.
Cut to me dropping off the form at Edwards House, eyeing the lady behind the counter for way too long after she took the form, and walking to Peirce afterward playing “Power” by Kanye West at full blast, the sun on my back, How Do I Do It?
Aaaand cut to me receiving a DISCIPLINARY NOTICE email for an infraction located at Edwards House, looking up what the hell Edwards House was for on campus, then yelling “Oh shit! Oh fuck!” over and over until someone found me.
Forgery is perhaps the crime with the greatest disparity between how serious it is and how unserious it feels. I mean as far as crimes go, it’s gotta be if not the weakest then certainly the least badass of any crime. It takes little to no effort. Leather jacket clad rebels who smoke cigarettes and never really move their face don’t brag to girls at the malt shop about forging documents. And yet, cartoon college or not, in the U.S. forgery is punished based on how much money is defrauded in the forged document. It can be as minor as misdemeanor (if the document results in less than $1000 defrauded) but for more can be punishable for up to ten years in jail. I could have missed out on my twenties.
To find out what punishment Kenyon had in store, I had to go into the bowels of Gund Commons and talk to a disciplinary officer.
“So,” he said. “Why don’t you tell me why you think you’re here.”
I was still holding out for a sitcom-esque turnaround, where I’m in the office and the guy says “Your screenwriting professor’s signature is clearly forged,” and then I say “Just that one? No others?” The officer would say “Yup. Just that one. Why?” and I’d say, “Nothing, that’s really his signature though,” and prove it. This would be a comic misunderstanding and I would just get out of it.
But no. They knew exactly why. “We get her signature a lot and so when they’re not real they really stick out, you know?” He laughed. Just rub it in.
At Kenyon this punishment is deferred suspension, which for all you do-gooders and successful forgers means that I’m fine for now, but one more strike and I’m off campus for a full semester. It also means that for one year after I graduate, this will be on my academic record. I had no other offenses minus the two good-sams (“What’s going on there buddy? Everything alright?”) so they told me to go to a disciplinary meeting, write a four-hundred word essay reflecting on my crime, and apologize to my fake advisor. I had to do this, I couldn’t face her knowing that she knew I forged her signature.
Which I did, after a ninety minute meeting where I was made to reassess my life values and goals, picking my top ten from a list of virtues they gave me. The two disciplinarians there also spent ten minutes trying to set up a YouTube video on the projector, which helped eat up some of the time. With that done, and the essay just a rough transcript of this meeting, I was going to recover from this, once I apologized to my fake advisor, the thought of which made me sick to my stomach.
“Well,” my fake advisor said, “I have to say I’m extremely disappointed in you. You were one of the last people I would’ve expected to do this.” I must have rambled in just pure stream-of-consciousness word vomit how it had nothing to do with her and that I panicked and I was horrifically sorry, etc. It breaks my heart.
“I didn’t even know it was you. They didn’t tell me who it was on the form, they just sent me the signature.” Well. “It certainly is disappointing. That being said, a spot has opened up so if you’re still looking for someone to be your advisor, I’m available.”
I’m not exactly sure what I was meant to learn from this.