Tuesday, March 9th at 2:12 p.m., Pibly House and satellites received an email from Dean of Students Tracey Cameron entitled “RD: Pibly, Orchard, and Checker Chance.” The message contained only two sentences:
Good Day, Rockers:
If you are not familiar with Rochelle Duffy, here’s the low down. She’s been working at Simon’s Rock since the nineties, though she took a small break in the middle, came back, and her service to our school has totaled to around twelve years. Students may know her by her many names, like Rochelle, Ro-Duff, or the more recently acquired COVID nomen, “Lists.” You might have recognized her by her famous catchphrase, “Right-on”; the term she coined to describe the latest trend in COVID attire, “Pajamas that pass”; or her consistent availability and care toward all students, whether they were her residents or not. In fact, Rochelle was so involved with students that she elected against having her own office so that she could spend her administrative time in Dining Hall, always leaving an empty seat at her table.
As of Tuesday, she was the Pibly RD, Housing Coordinator, and ACE Program Administrator—that is, until she mysteriously left.
Piblians (students like myself who live on upper’s superior residence, Pibly House) were shocked when Rochelle was seen packing up her iconic blue Jive, tuxedo-cat Ditto confusedly pacing the halls, unaware that it was her final day in the place where she had spent the majority of her life. What’s more (according to an alumni Facebook group): Duffy was only given two hours to pack up her house, in which she’d been living for the last four years. That’s right, Rochelle was evicted in the midst of a pandemic and, if the decorations on her door are any indication, she wasn’t even permitted to collect all of her things in one sitting.
A new email was sent at 4:09 p.m., this time from Interim Pibly RD Rebecca Patterson:
Subject: House Meeting tonight 7 p.m.
According to one Pibly attendee, the meeting lasted for about twenty minutes and was relatively inconclusive. Staff in attendance included Dean Tracey Cameron, who remained primarily silent, and Rebecca Patterson, who tried her best to lift spirits by opening Carriage events to Pibly/Satellite students, as well as by offering access to the Carriage Peer Mentor, Ava Nemec. This, however, settled few fears as it was made clear that neither employee would ever be able to discuss personnel matters, though they could confirm that Rochelle was no longer working at Simon’s Rock. For those who could not make it (such as myself), we were given a follow-up email which contained Rebecca’s office hours and her personal extension of support to anyone who might need it, signed with a warm “Have a restful night.”
Keeping within the bounds of typical Rocker spirit, students began to organize at once. Word of a sympathetic gift basket soon turned into plans of anarchy and even a wry “Cough-a-thon,” in which one student proposed Piblians walk into Hall College, remove their masks, and proceed to pepper spray themselves as to disperse possibly contaminated spittle and tears about the administrative building. This, of course, boiled down to a much simpler, yet hopefully no less effective, plan for action.
Students began by posting three subsequent graphics to their various social media platforms.
They then proceeded to send a school-wide email (utilizing an email list composed last semester by a similarly optimistic student in order to avoid list-serve censorship) with the subject header, “All classes have been cancelled, Wednesday, March 9th.” It was delivered at 8:39 p.m. and read as follows:
Dear Students of Simon’s Rock,
Students immediately began to respond. Freshman and Academy Matriculate Raphie Mostov displayed enthusiastic support with a simple reply-all: “Aight bet. Sent from my iPhone.” PM Ava Nemec opted for a mildly more professional tone, asking “a few questions people have asked [her] since the email came out” and extending her support. In addition to her wondering whether or not we should speak to administration and, if not, how the specific message will/should be conveyed, she inquired the following:
2. Should we contact teachers about this?
The original email’s sender answered clearly, encouraging students to “allow the administration to approach us in our space,” while an eloquent sophomore replied with a handy “email template for those who want to let their teachers know.”
Solstice Burdick took full advantage of said advice and took to social media to rate their professors’ responses on a one to ten scale. While The Weekly Cad will not be naming names, most faculty were intrigued by the strike, though they did not necessarily “endorse it as a good reason to miss class.” Still, they shared their concern regarding campus and how it will function without Rochelle, who “has been working here a long time and always seems a great RA to me.”
John Weinstein, provost and generally well-regarded campus figure, expressed his support in his email, “On Protests and Classes, Which Are Not Cancelled.” Though he was obligated to deny any class cancellation, he called to “our most recent in person Commencement speaker, the noted author Jamaica Kincaid” and reminded us that protests make for some of youth’s “greatest moments.”
Even alumni reached out, dispersing a petition to show support for Rochelle and publicly declaring that they will no longer be donating to Simon’s Rock. As of now, there are 252 signatures, including that of previous Dean of Students Brady McCartney.
In the Rock’s typical collective spirit, faculty, staff, and students alike were invited to gather in the virtual Grotto, a Discord server created by junior Charlie Yates. Modeled after the exclusive student recreation space currently being used as below-DHall storage, Yates “created the virtual Grotto as a student-owned and operated space for us to organize action to help each other and staff[…] I think the Grotto is a powerful metaphor for the space we should endeavor to build. As recently as three years ago, faculty were literally not allowed in the Grotto and had to get explicit student permission to use the space. Now, I’ve heard rumors the administration is considering turning it into an E-Sports Stadium. I don’t have anything against ESports, it’s just that at the very, very least students should be consulted on matters that concern us[…] I also don’t think consulting students means anything if it doesn’t happen in a space we own and with an organization we run.”
For Yates this is an especially personal battle. “I had appendicitis two semesters ago and Rochelle drove me to the hospital and stayed with me until my mom made it,” he writes,
I didn’t have a phone charger so she gave me hers. Rochelle was there for me, so I’m going to be there for her.
Charlie Yates encourages anyone with similar concerns to add their voice to the conversation. Find the virtual Grotto here.
At 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, students and alumni gathered on the virtual Grotto to discuss their plan for the open forum, scheduled for 4:45. A document of demands, as well as a collection of general concerns, prepared the student body for the confrontation to come.
The forum was moderated by Teddy Driscoll, Senior Representative of Student Government. First and foremost, Yates listed the demands, then students were free to air their grievances in a polite manner. Next, Campus Life and faculty were given a platform (notable attendees include RDs Sherri Brown, Lisa and Erin Donahue, Mafalda Gueta, Jane Kungu, Brandon Pare, Max Taylor; professors Asma Abbas, Katie Boswell, Chris Coggins, Miha Habic, Ken Knox; and registrar Peter Long). While many did not speak (and likely were hearing about the actual circumstances for the first time), those who did shared the special sentiment that Rochelle is part of what makes Campus Life, well, Campus Life. None publicly contested her termination, but they were clearly worried about what impact this would have on their students.
Students were then asked to share specific questions they wished administration to sit on and answer on a later date (listed below). Then, and only then, were the present administrators (Tracey Cameron, Sue Lyon, and John Weinstein) allowed to speak.
The administrators, in my opinion, were perfectly civil. John was adamant in his rhetoric that student voices were being heard, and both he and Tracey asked what students would like to see going forward into the immediate future. The meeting concluded with an agreement for both parties to marinate over the questions and for administration to set a date to meet again by tomorrow.
Only time will tell how yesterday’s strike may change campus, but I know that this columnist is excited to find out. We’ll keep you posted.
List of Demands:
Questions for Administration:
Elise is a junior and the Editor in Chief of The Weekly Cad.