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Honors student says Washington D.C. trip was miserable; chancellor calls for faculty training

** FILE ** This Tuesday, July 3, 2007 picture shows the skyline of Washington, D.C., including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the U.S. Capitol. No skyscrapers jut from this low-lying federal city, allowing iconic buildings like the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol to dominate the horizon. However, the historically sparse skyline might not stay that way. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

The Honors College trip to Washington D.C. last summer was a bad experience for more than one student.

A student, who asked to remain anonymous because she feared retaliation, said that she was also neglected by Diane Snow, the dean of the John V. Roach Honors College. 

The month-long trip to Washington, D.C. last summer is at the center of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a student identified only as Jane Doe No. 1. The suit accuses Snow and other members of the honors faculty of subjecting Doe to verbal and physical abuse because of her race.

Snow did not respond to an email requesting a comment, and the others named in the suit declined to comment.

“As a practice, Texas Christian University does not comment on the specifics of pending litigation,” the university said in a statement. “Like many universities in the country, TCU has a complex history that we are taking an active approach to examining and understanding. Today TCU is focused on creating a respectful and inclusive community for all students. At this time, the university’s main priority is to address our student’s concerns, and we are investigating the matters outlined.”

Chancellor responds to listening sessions

In response to the suit, the university held two listening sessions during which students of color or from marginalized groups told of hostile encounters they experienced on campus. Some students said the first time they were called the n-word was at TCU, others complained of faculty who asked why they were at TCU.

Chancellor Victor Boschini Photo credit: TCU

In the days following, Chancellor Victor Boschini announced that the university is planning faculty and staff listening sessions. His campus-wide e-mail also talked of increasing faculty and staff education beyond matters of compliance and community building for students.

‘The worst trip of my life’

The student who contacted TCU360 said Snow was disrespectful to all of the students on the trip.  

However, she said that some of the claims Doe’s lawyers made in the lawsuit were “sensationalized.”

“The biggest thing that I was there for was there was some information in regards to Dr. Snow and that she did things in front of all of us towards Jane Doe that just didn’t happen,” she said. “I think there was a sentence that said she mocked her in front of the students that just didn’t happen.”

The student did not elaborate on any other points in the lawsuit, but she did say the suit forced her to confront her experiences in Washington.

“It brought up a lot of things that I didn’t want to remember at the time, a lot of things that I kind of just pushed past,” she said. “I didn’t pretend that it didn’t happen, it’s just one of those indescribable things, you’re kind of at a loss for words. It just brought up a lot of feelings of disgust, anger and sadness.”

Former faculty member sues alleging discrimination

She said students were responsible for different assignments each week while they were in Washington. She said they were assigned writing reflections and weekly journals during the first week, journals and a final paper during the second week and an argumentative essay during the third week. 

“The fourth week was Dean Snow’s week and it was insane,” she said. “We had this project that we had to interview people in D.C. for and we had to write an 8-10 page essay on something that we found in the health or STEM field in D.C. We were required to have an outside source but our days were from 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., so a lot of the times where we wanted to go interview people we just couldn’t.” 

When students questioned Snow about the assignment, “she snapped and yelled,” the student said. 

“She was like, ‘You all are honors students, you know what’s expected of honors students, and this is an honors college trip,’ and honestly by then we were burned out,” she said. 

The student said her bad experiences with Snow began before the trip due to health concerns she had. 

Like Doe, the student said Snow “guilted” her into going on the trip by reminding her how competitive the program was and how lucky she was to go on it.

“I emailed her and I said, ‘Hey, I can’t go, I’m so sorry,’ and her response was ‘Here’s why you’re going,’” she said. “She’s a dean so I assumed she would understand.”

The student said she was told her health concerns would be accommodated, but that she never received the care she was promised. 

“I was like I need something else or I need to go to the hotel, and her response was like ‘Can you come back in an hour?’ as I was throwing up in the bathroom,” she said. “There were just little instances like that in the trip where I wanted my voice to be heard and I wanted the dean of the honors college to take care of me like she said she would, and she didn’t.”

The student said there was a worry-free atmosphere when Snow wasn’t in the room, an environment that completely changed once she walked in.

“We weren’t worried about someone snapping at us, but once Dean Snow got there the atmosphere in the room changed…but when you’re a student and the dean is sitting right there, you can’t say why you’re uncomfortable because you’re afraid of retaliation,” she said. 

The student said she didn’t have any bad experiences with the other instructors. 

“The faculty besides Snow were kind and responsive,” she said. “My main concern was Snow. It was hard being in the room with her, having meals with her, but I lost it on the trip. I think we all lost it in some way.”

The student said she hopes the lawsuit sparks a culture change at TCU so that similar behavior isn’t tolerated in the future.

“You want the best if you’re going to be advertised that you’re getting the best, and this is unacceptable,” she said. “I wish I could transfer but I’m so close to finishing it all. That trip was the worst trip of my life and I truly wish I didn’t go.”

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