When Truth is Absent, Gossip Becomes Gospel

Humans are, to both their benefit and detriment, a curious species. We seek answers when we see something we can’t explain. When cavemen saw lightning and heard thunder, they created intricate stories and explanations that had little scientific basis.  When kids hear strange noises at night, they lie awake, wondering what the sounds could be. And when a surprising new inter-dorming rule appears in The Almanac in the middle of the summer, it’s only natural that students should theorize about why that rule was enacted. If the administration didn’t want us to make up theories, the implementation and the reasoning behind the new policy should have been explained.

My purpose is not to criticize the rule itself; that path has been walked already. What I take issue with is the way in which the school decided to roll out this new policy. The lack of communication between the school and the students not only led to widespread gossip but also to conspiracy theories that have been divisive to the student body. The fact that we still do not know why it was introduced as it was is a testament to the administration’s unwillingness to be completely transparent.

As the first week of school arrived, most students had already made up their minds about why the rule was put in place. The most notorious rumor that spread was that it was designed to apply to the all-gender dorm and then applied to the rest of the school in order to avoid singling out said dorm. If this truly was the rule’s purpose, then it had the opposite effect.  Watson became the focal point of every discussion of the policy. The all-gender dorm became inextricably linked to a policy that was infamous. At no point were these rumors proven true or false, but it didn’t matter; since the school gave us no reasons for the rule, we made up our own.

This speculation has had negative effects on our community. Imagine being a student in Watson who really wanted to live in that dorm. Even if it wasn’t the intent of the new policy, the vitriol against this rule and the blame assigned to Watson might make that student feel embarrassed or guilty for their housing choice, even though they had no input in or prior knowledge of this new policy. The theories, true or not, bred a feeling of resentment against Watson. What should have been a happy moment for the students who felt more accommodated by Watson was overshadowed, as they became the scapegoats of anger against the new inter-dorming rules.

It has been a month and, although some details have come out, we remain generally in the dark. At first, the school insisted that this rule was implemented solely to address security and safety. As time passed, the administration confessed that removing gender from the inter-dorming policy did play a role in the new policy. However, we still don’t know whether that was connected to the roll-out of the first all-gender dorm, or if the timing was simply a coincidence.

A lack of transparency between the administration and the student body negatively affects all involved. The administration had its hands full trying to control the rumors that surrounded the new rule, and the students are grasping at straws looking for answers. The school should take what happened as a learning experience. The best policy, and one that should never be changed, is honesty.