Still unsure whether this book is for you? Here is a sample chapter from the first Halls of Ivy book.
“I would like to call forth Ms. Winters. Please state your full name and occupation.”
After hearing his bass voice booming throughout the packed room, I walked forward, nervously clutching my folders full of notes.
“My name is Cheyenne Winters. I am a Student Affairs professional. My primary job is to aid in college student development.”
The gentleman’s tone softened as he continued speaking. “Ms. Winters, you do understand the harsh implications that this testimony will have on your career.”
“Very well then. You may proceed.”
“Thank you. I’m holding here samples of the documents and notes I’ve accumulated in my time at Sun Valley University. I first came here to conduct research for my dissertation. It was planned to be a four month ethnography consisting of campus observations and student interviews. Much to my surprise, this study brought results that neither I nor anyone else could have anticipated. My interaction with these students surfaced some… issues, which led to the crisis.”
“Ms. Winters, I’m going to have to ask you to be more specific.”
The piercing stare of the room made me feel anxious, but I held my ground. I pulled out the files from my folder.
“I’ve provided each member of the committee copies of these files. I’ve included biographies of the students I’ve met with, as well as select interviews that are relevant to the case. Lastly, I’ve worked countless hours with students, faculty, and staff to compile a chronological document outlining the events that led to this crisis. I did my best to leave it as unedited and unhampered as possible, so they may contain strong language or themes. I felt it was the only way to fully portray the lives of these students and their reasoning for exhibiting such unusual unethical behavior.”
“Are these documents supposed to serve as your story?” the gentleman said as he placed his glasses on to review the files on the table.
“Not at all. They are merely supplements to represent the voices of those that made this possible. To fully understand the crisis of Sun Valley University, you need to hear the perspectives of all of those involved. This isn’t my story, sir. This is our story.”
Chapter 1: Cheyenne Winters
Police sirens echoed throughout the campus, forcing me to pull over at least three times to let them pass. Despite the delay they caused on the road, I was still on schedule. I finally pulled into the lone road that led into the university. Although it wasn’t too long past six, darkness had already swept in. At one point, the single road split into a huge circle, with a patch of trees isolated in the middle. It was hard to tell in the dark, but it seemed to be a small park adorning the entrance to the campus. I turned left onto the circular road, then made another left and followed the sound of the sirens.
Driving down the campus’s side road showed me the true enormity of the university. Despite everything I’ve learned, all the people I’ve interviewed, I could never have imagined a liberal arts college of this size. It rivaled that of the state universities. I felt both intrigued and intimidated.
I pulled into a parking lot, empty except for a few cars scattered around here and there. I looked around for the administration building, but it was nowhere in sight. Just a few empty parking lots, some residence halls, and a closed deli. The majority of students were still gone for winter break. I looked back at the residence halls down the street with the emergency vehicles parked by them. There was an ambulance and three police cars parked by Miller Hall, right across from the campus safety office. There was a man standing outside talking to a police officer. Figuring he could help me, I walked towards him.
Looking like he may have just gotten out of work, the man was tall and skinny, wearing a peach-colored polo that meshed well with his dark brown skin tone. The police officer seemed disgruntled during their conversation, hands in pockets as if Floridian winter was too cold for him. A part of me wanted to know what was going on. I’ve examined campus emergencies for two years in my case studies, but haven’t actually been near a real one. The officer saw me approaching and directed his attention towards me.
“May I help you?” he asked with a slightly condescending tone. I could tell he didn’t want me to be there. I could smell his garlic breath from all the way over here.
“Hi… umm… hello,” I responded as I nervously fiddled with my silver-tinted glasses. “I’m Cheyenne Winters. I have an appointment in the administration building. Could any of you direct me to where it is?”
The officer looked over at his watch. “Listen, miss, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a possible crime scene. There’s a university directory down the road. I suggest you take a look at it and clear the area. We don’t have time for this.”
He turned around and looked back at the other gentleman, as if gesturing for some backup. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that this police officer wasn’t a police officer at all. He was just one of the campus safety officers that patrolled the university.
The other gentleman looked back at the officer, shook his head, then looked at me. “Listen, Randy. We’re done here. I told you what you needed to know. Nothing has changed. Now, please excuse me while I help the lady with her directions.”
The man walked towards me, much to the officer’s dismay.
“Hello Ms. Winters. My name is Travis Coleman, Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life,” he said with a sympathetic smile as he reached out to shake my hand. “Don’t mind Randy here. He’s just in a bad mood because the Sun Valley police officers left him on guard duty out here to direct the non-existent traffic. If you’ll just follow me, I’ll show you where Admin Hall is.”
Travis led the way. Back in Miller Hall, I saw two men wheeling out a body into the ambulance. I really had an urge to find out more. Travis could tell that I was curious.
“Yeah, that’s a body back there,” he told me before I asked. “Freshman male. His roommate found him dead in his room. Signs point towards a suicide.”
“A suicide?” I asked in disbelief, partly surprised with how relaxed he was acting through all of this. I would’ve been panicking all over the place. “Haven’t there already been two suicides on this campus this year? In the past three months even?”
“Yeah,” Travis responded. “Which is exactly why everyone around here is getting worried. Three suicides in one year is unprecedented at this university. People are quickly starting to believe that these aren’t isolated incidents. Yet at the same time, it’s almost becoming a normal occurrence. That’s the scariest part.”
“What happened to the other two?” I asked him.
“We’re not sure, to be honest. We managed to figure out how they killed themselves, but we never found out why. We’re under the impression that this is a cause of depression among our students. Depression is the most common reason for suicide among students in universities. So, of course, that’s what the others in my department have concluded.”
“Do you think it was depression?” I asked him.
“I don’t know,” he responded. “It’s really a lot to think about, lots of variables involved. But anyways, take a look over there.”
Travis pointed to a building down the road.
“That’s Admin Hall. Just go right on through the first entrance you see and it’ll lead you to the reception desk. They can help you out from there. Now I need to go back to Miller Hall and check on the other students. It was nice meeting you, Ms. Winters.”
“Likewise, and thanks,” I responded as we both parted ways. Questions raced through my head about the whole ordeal. If there were so many suicides, why was everyone so calm and relaxed? Why wasn’t this in the news? This should’ve been the police department’s number one priority! Had I been running this university, things would’ve been completely different.
I headed on over to Admin Hall and went inside to find the Dean of Students, Shandra Giles.
I spotted her standing by the reception desk engaged in conversation with a few people. Her dark brown hair was neatly tied in a bun as she stood there with near-perfect posture. Her tall stature and firm disposition exuded a great deal of authority. She seemed to be in her mid-forties. I had only met her once before, during a brief encounter at the ACPA (American College Personnel Association) conference.
“Hi, Dr. Giles?” I cautiously chimed in. “I don’t mean to interrupt. My name is Cheyenne Winters, and I had a meeting with you scheduled.”
She turned over and looked at me. “Ahh, yes, Cheyenne, I was expecting you today, wasn’t I? Cheyenne, I’d like to introduce you to our university provost, Dr. Scott, and Detective Lynn Sawyer, from the Sun Valley Police Department.”
I looked over to the other two individuals accompanying Dr. Giles. Dr. Scott was an older man in his mid-fifties. His raised hairline from his hair loss made his shiny forehead the center of my attention. He was a skinny man dressed in a pair of dress pants and a polo shirt, similar to Travis Coleman. It was an odd choice of wardrobe, considering his position was much higher than that of Dr. Giles’, yet she looked like his superior. Lynn Sawyer was much shorter in comparison to Dr. Giles and Dr. Scott, but her fierce stare more than made up for it. She didn’t seem to put much effort into her appearance. Her hair was frizzled and her outfit needed some ironing. It was hard to look at her without staring into her intimidating grey eyes as they glared at me like a territorial predator.
“This is Cheyenne Winters,” Dr. Giles continued. “Graduate from East Central Florida University and now working on her PhD in… what was it dear? Psychology?”
“Student Affairs,” I corrected her. “I met you at a student affairs conference, remember?”
“Ahh, yes, ACPA,” Dr. Giles said. “You wanted to talk to me about some study you wanted to do on our students, correct? Question them about something?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but Detective Sawyer jumped into the conversation.
“Hold on a second, Shandra,” Detective Sawyer said in a slightly aggravated tone. “What do you mean she’s here to question some students? We have some really pressing issues at hand. I’m planning on interrogating students in the next coming days as they arrive from their winter break. I would prefer if I was the only one doing the questioning around here.”
“I really don’t believe I’ll be a bother,” I nervously told her. “It’s for my dissertation. I’m doing an ethnographic study on college students. I’ll be learning about how they think, how they behave, and what their college experience is like from the students themselves.”
“Listen, Ms. Winters, I understand you have your work to do. But I have my work to do as well, and frankly, this investigation takes precedence over your little school project. I have enough of you officials to deal with already. Shandra, I’m going to have to ask that you tell Ms. Winters here to postpone her study.”
“Absolutely not,” Dr. Giles responded for me. “Cheyenne is involved in a very important area. Her study of these students is invaluable to the student affairs work that we as university staff do here.”
“Excuse me, but what exactly is student affairs?” Detective Sawyer asked in irritation.
“We’re the field that makes your life easier, detective,” Dr. Giles responded coyly. I could almost see the hint of a grin on her face. “While university professors help students grow academically, we’re the ones that are left to help them develop everywhere else. We help them with their social, emotional, and out-of-class problems that they face. It is our job to help them grow into mature, responsible adults, and keep them out of your hands and out of trouble.”
Detective Sawyer smirked. “Well, based on this streak of suicides, it seems your student affairs department has been slacking on the job. Problem with the management, maybe?”
I could tell there was some tension between Dr. Giles and Detective Sawyer that was present before I even entered the building. If I ran this university, problems like this wouldn’t exist. I had so many ideas I wanted to implement once I graduated and actually had the power to change anything at these colleges.
The provost, Dr. Scott, finally spoke up.
“Ladies, ladies, please,” he said. “Detective Sawyer, I’d like to discuss with you the specifics of your investigation. There are a number of things we need to address before you begin interrogating my students. Let’s let Dr. Giles and Ms. Winters have their meeting.”
Dr. Scott led Detective Sawyer up to his office. She gave Dr. Giles and me a stern look for a brief second before heading off with him. I looked over back at Dr. Giles.
“Thank you so much, Dr. Giles,” I told her, relieved. “I wasn’t sure what I would’ve done if-“
“Listen, Cheyenne,” Dr. Giles interrupted. “I stood up for you because Lynn Sawyer has been a pain in my ass since the first suicide took place here. She’s wanted to turn this place upside down with her investigation and I haven’t let her. Now with this third one, she really has it in for me and has been giving me grief about it ever since. The truth is, your timing doesn’t sit well with me. With all of this going on, and all the pressures I’m getting from the admins above, your study is more of a hindrance than a help. Babysitting you is something I don’t need to be worrying about right now.”
I watched her in silence, turning red with embarrassment.
“However, since I’ve already agreed to it, you can do your study here. I’ve arranged with Professor Garcia for you to meet with his class on the Monday after winter break is over. You can introduce yourself to the class and tell them the purpose of your study. I will allow you to meet with them, and only them, for your interviews, observations, and field notes. Do not get in the way of our faculty, our staff, Detective Sawyer, or me. Especially me. Otherwise, you’re finished here. You got that?”
“Yes Dr. Giles,” I responded sheepishly. “Though I promise I won’t be a bother to anyone. My study isn’t just for my benefit. It’s for the benefit of the students. Maybe if I can find out what’s making the students unhappy I can help improve the college retention rate. Maybe even, who knows? Discourage future suicides, maybe?”
“Oh, Cheyenne, you’re so young,” Dr. Giles said. “Sun Valley University’s retention rate is a little over fifty percent. Do you know what that means? That only about half of the freshman class that entered this year will reach graduation. It’s been like that for a while now. No matter what we do, how hard we try, it is unrealistic to assume that it will change. Students have problems, and only the students themselves can choose whether or not they want to deal with them. We can only help those that want the help.
“A little word of advice, from professional to professional. Don’t get too attached to these students. And don’t expect to change the world with one study. That path will lead to disappointment. Just do the best you can with what you have, and set realistic expectations.”
“Thank you,” I told her as I turned to leave. So much for having her as my mentor.
“And one more thing,” she added. “We have a strict rule of confidentiality at this university. Any information gathered here that you intend to publish or share with the public has to be approved by me first. Failure to do this will result in some serious legal ramifications. Do I make myself clear, Ms. Winters?”