During last week’s school meeting, Dean of Students Nancy Thomas H’01 P’04’07 followed by President-Elect Maya Peterson ’14 addressed the school concerning rampant rumors and speculation about Peterson’s disciplinary status and her previous history of misdemeanors. While Thomas sought to clarify certain goals of our anonymity policy, both attempted to dispel any misconceptions about Peterson’s past actions.
Thomas revealed that this past fall, a student anonymously sent her a packet that contained photos of the president-elect using marijuana. Peterson then confirmed this information in her own speech, admitting, “this past summer, one of the most emotionally taxing times in my life… I smoked marijuana and allowed pictures of my doing so to be put on the Internet.” She continued to admit that she “was not only disappointed in [herself] but [also] terrified that a stupid decision in my past should come back to bite me.” Peterson also revealed that since the photos surfaced, she has willingly submitted to random drug tests throughout the year.
In addition to the photos, Thomas also revealed that throughout the year, she has received more anonymous information that implied that Peterson “sent tweets that were harassing another student and that she was using drugs on campus.” After investigation, it was concluded that the tweets were in fact completely fabricated, the information included was false, and both were created simply to target Peterson. It is unclear whether or not the same person is responsible for both the anonymously sent photos and the fake tweets.
The student reaction to Peterson’s speech varied from stoic to standing ovations.
One of the important distinctions made in both speeches was the validity and propriety of anonymous sources. In a letter to The Lawrence, Thomas explained, “sometimes I get information anonymously that seems less of an expression of concern and more of an attempt to incriminate someone else without coming forward. We cannot support an environment in which students are able to accuse others while they hide and offer no opportunity to explore the truth of the matter. I will not take disciplinary action based on information that was sent to me anonymously.”
Thomas went on to specify that “it doesn’t mean I don’t deal with the information; it is simply not a disciplinary matter.”
Peterson also addressed the anonymous nature of the source commenting, “I will not be held hostage by someone whose intention it is to be hurtful, and I hope you won’t either…I hope you will recognize the insidiousness of this situation.” She went on to make a direct appeal to the students noting, “there is someone else who needs to come clean here, too. Please, let’s help each other grow and heal over past issues and not let anger or hatred rule our lives here in what I believe to be a beautiful community.”