Years before entering UConn, when I was a high school senior in 1990, I got involved with some students protesting the system of racial oppression maintained by the South African government at the time, called Apartheid, that was being used to keep black people in that country oppressed. There was a local private university in the town I in lived that had investment ties able to be traced to the South African government, and as such helped provide monetary support indirectly for that regime. I, as a young minority, was just beginning to realize the injustices with regards to racism within the system that were still very deep, and felt I wanted to do something like getting involved with discussion groups, peaceful protests, etc.
I got convinced by two much older, much more mature and much smarter college students to get involved in an idea they had they initially said would be peaceful regarding protesting the college's connections to supporting Apartheid. Then, by slowly morphing, soon they were coming to my house showing me rough plans they had drawn up for a violent protest involving vandalism. I was trepidatious, but unfortunately highly impressionable at that time.
I didn't realize it then, but I was definitely being used. I had a house where I lived with my mother that was off campus they could use to meet and plan at, though I was never involved in the planning; I had access to a car that I could get almost any time; and I had friends that were local and just as frustrated by the injustices and also as equally naïve about how people that may think the same things are wrong can have dark and hidden agendas all their own that leave you out in the cold at the end of their designs. They had friends too like Jay, Lori, Nikki and more.
I was told by mutual acquaintances after the fact the two people from that university were both undercover law enforcement and that I should stay away. Too late then. Whatever they were, I got arrested and tried as an adult, though I was a minor at the time. The record stuck with me, and though technically it wasn't terrorism, there are many that choose to see it that way, especially given my race and particularly after 9-11. I suppose for many, it's a heady enough combination without the Apartheid protest from thirteen years prior entering into the equation.
Fast forward to 2003 at UConn and I started getting harassed by a certain professor my sophomore year that was my first year taking courses towards my desired major – landscape architecture. The professor found out about my past and wanted me out of the program. Apparently he felt he could achieve that and keep it quiet and subtle. His desired goal was to get me to either drop out from the pressure, flunk as a result of the pressure or get kicked out because I acted out as a result of the pressure. Yet, on his own he failed and just didn't have enough strength for the job – or weakness depending on your view of it.
He conscripted some students to help him and fed them some kind of trumped up version of my past having them believe I was some Al Qaeda extremist also – heck I wasn't even Muslim not that that should matter. That failed too. They also did not have what it took. So they started pressuring those on the fence and opposed through harassment and through lowering their grades with rewards such as better grades for participation.
But for whatever reasons it just didn't add up to sufficient strength. It too continued to fail.
But they kept trying, until in my senior year I decided to file a formal complaint and maybe even pursue a lawsuit. As I mentioned before there were people that were on the fence regarding the harassment of me and on again off again in their participation level. One such person was a student named Eduardo Colon. Though he was on again off again, he was a minority like me and had admitted to me he had seen the prejudice, harassment and discrimination also. I thought I would bounce the idea off of him, as he was “on” at that point, to see what he thought. He began trying to convince me it was a bad idea – at first subtly, then more and more outright and intensely.
It failed to change my mind and he saw that. Finally, after apparently exhausting all his options, he revealed to me he was working in the capacity of a law enforcement representative in an undercover capacity, and alluded to the fact if I talked his work during the eight years he had been working in this vein on the UConn campus could be blown. He then pointed to others and insinuated the same of them.
I suppose he thought that through guilt, some notion that he and the others were like him were heroic or a fear of reprisals (which there shouldn't be as you would think law enforcement should be all about honesty) I would not talk or even not want to. But the opposite occurred. I became more angered.
I had no problems with them on campus watching me, though that only required one or two in my degree program as it was small and we spent almost all our time in the same design room. I was doing nothing illegal then nor even remotely political. I did have major problems with them harassing me though. This was not only illegal, it was dangerous. What if I actually were some dangerous unstable personality? We've seen things happen on college campuses with unstable students harming others.
Had I been it could have been really bad. Fortunately for the students at the campus, I am not and was not dangerous, unstable or a threat. That was a hazardous and wasteful expenditure of tax dollars and they could have been using it to monitor actual terrorists. The most political involvement I had after my legal troubles as a teen was when I started voting after earning that right back by not repeating any law breaking. If they really thought that, why'd they let me onto the campus in the first place – then provoke and harass me to add to it?
Furthermore, beyond the tax dollars being paid for this experiment or whatever it was, Eddie Colon was getting frat buddies and class mates drunk at parties he threw and many of these persons were underage. He would even boast about having underage persons drinking at his parties and of convincing his more naïve frat buddies to bring their underage female relatives to parties then bragged about getting them drunk and sleeping with them. He handed out passes to strip clubs and more. This was a cop.
But aside from the waste of tax dollars it also shows you that people like Ed are not as smart as you might think, I mean after all, in the end when the pressure got turned up, he couldn't even button his mouth properly when the temptation of his inner child to shout out, “I'm an undercover cop hee, hee,” by outing himself to me, came up.
Nor are people like Ed as powerful as one might think no matter how corrupt and how far outside the law they are willing to go as criminals to get what they want. There were numerous people in my degree program he pointed to that were there in the same capacity as himself and with them, the professor and the foolish conscripts that felt breaking the law was okay as long as a person in a position of authority said it was patriotic or things to that effect. Through it all they failed.
See I graduated. I got my diploma. I stood there after commencement in my cap and gown and saw the looks on their faces.
They aren't as powerful as you might think. I can prove it. I called their bluff in more than one way and on more than one occasion. I mean really, if they were that powerful, I wouldn't be able to write this here today and publish it. Would I?
If you find yourself the victim of harassment from whatever source, read my story and know – you too can do it. You too can make it. I left them flailing and failing in my wake, and I'm just one person with no special talents, special skills or special levels of intellect. If I can do it, you can too.
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.