Who is Scott Wilbur?

I’m a relatively apathetic student when it comes to campus decision-making. Yet even I was bothered enough by the brief email sent out by Dean Spellman yesterday to write up a Forum article. The infamous email warned us to be cautious of Scott Wilbur, a banned HMC alum supposedly planning on violating his restraining order and returning to HMC's campus for Alumni Weekend, possibly in disguise. After the initial reaction to the intense photograph of Wilbur and the obvious jokes that followed, I realized, like many of us did, that this email was kind of weird. Why? Let’s see: zero context. To sum it up, the email said: “The man depicted here is banned. If you see him, call Campus Safety and do not approach him.”  But who is Scott Wilbur, and why in the world are we looking out for him?

I emailed Dean Spellman to inquire if any information was to be given on why we were to be wary. She only repeated that he had been banned from HMC and if seen, we should contact Campus Safety.

I responded that I understood, but asked whether we as CMCers - and as adults - should be allowed to know background, or reasoning. Spellman responded, “I do not have more information to share with you.  The context is that this person was banned from the HMC campus.  This does not really involve CMC but I thought you and the rest of the community should know about it.  In the unlikely event that you see someone who looks like this person, please call Campus Safety.” Of course, her statement can be taken two ways: that she (and others around her) simply had no information, or that they just didn’t want to share.

Taken either way, I was very surprised at the given “answer.” Firstly, it was not believable that they would have no detailed information and that HMC would fail to provide them with further explanation. And secondly, I wondered how they could be so comfortable denying students information related, even loosely, to the safety and well-being of 5Cers.

I found out quickly that both concerns were founded. Scripps and Pomona students were forwarded all of the details and more by their deans (Pitzer: unknown). For some reason, the CMC administration either thought we would be safer in the dark or that their job was to share the bare minimum.

Here are the details that were sent out from other 5C deans that, for some reason, CMC's Dean of Students Office either doesn’t want students to know, or doesn't think students need to know.

Date: April 28, 2010 4:04:06 PM PDT

Subject: Alumni Weekend Security Preparations

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

I am writing to let you know about an issue the College is facing regarding our upcoming Alumni Weekend and how we intend to deal with it.

In March 2010, Scott Wilbur, HMC alum, was issued a court-ordered permanent restraining order that prohibits him from being within 100 yards of the entire HMC campus.  The restraining order resulted from a threat he directed at me.  Since then we heard that he has made threatening remarks directed at a small number of our senior staff and a member of the Alumni Board of Governors, which included mention of a firearm.

Unfortunately, Mr. Wilbur has repeatedly stated that he would attend Alumni weekend which begins on Friday, April 30 and ends the evening of Sunday, May 2. In order to ensure the safety of our campus community and guests, we have taken extra security precautions.  The College has hired security officers from Campus Safety and has also hired a private security firm.  The Claremont Police Department has also been notified and will have a presence on campus during the entire weekend.

If you see Mr. Wilbur on campus please contact Campus Safety immediately by phone at 72000 (909-607-2000).  A recent photograph of Mr. Wilbur is attached.   Several alternative possible images are presented as well since we believe he may attempt to change his appearance before coming to campus.  If you cannot open the attachment, it is also available at the following internal website: http://www.hmc.edu/issues/hmconly/scott-wilbur.html

Please remember that Mr. Wilbur is directing his threats towards me and a few members of the senior staff.  However, it is always a good practice to be familiar with the College’s internal safety procedures and they are available on the Emergency Preparedness website : http://www.hmc.edu/about/administrativeoffices/emergencypreparednessandsafety1/prep1/procedures1/emergproced.html

The College's primary focus in this matter is the safety of our faculty, staff, alumni and students.  The security precautions we are putting in place are intended to help ensure all of our safety and we wanted you to know about these precautions beforehand.  Due to previously scheduled commitments I will be traveling over the next two days, but if you have any questions please contact Bob Cave, Maggie Browning, Andrew Dorantes, Joseph Vaughan or Cynthia Beckwith who can easily contact me as needed.

Sincerely,

Maria Klawe

President

After learning about this, I called CMC DOS to inquire who made this decision to withhold and deny information and for what purpose. I was put into touch with Dean Huang’s assistant who said that Dean Spellman and unnamed “others” had spoken and decided it was unnecessary to forward the extra information. Even if they didn’t think the photos (let’s face it, they were funny) and HMC president’s letter were necessary for us to see, the thing is they didn’t even want to provide one sentence of context like, “He has threatened the life of several members of the HMC senior staff”— which might have been enough to satisfy most CMCers.

Ironically, by trying to minimize attention drawn to the incident by witholding and denying information when asked, the administration made the incident into a huge deal. The conversation has moved from Ryal and Collins to Facebook. The “cryptic” and “sketchy” email, and the unsupported warning to “watch out for Scott,” has become the butt of a great many jokes on campus. Some students have switched their profile photos to photos of Scott Wilbur, a Facebook profile has been created for him, and as of yesterday a hilarious Facebook group has been started called “joking about the terrifying possibility of encountering Scott Wilbur.” It appears that CMC students have had a large part in contributing to this group, so I think it’s fair to say that DOS’ calculated decision backfired.

The way the administration is handling this situation strikes a familiar chord. However subtly, DOS officials continue to widen a rift between themselves and the students they work for by misinterpreting the way we work, play, think, and even protect ourselves. How could more information possibly increase the threat, more than it would increase our caution? This is simply another awkward, confusing decision that the administration has made this semester. Instead of Scott Wilbur creeping me out, now it’s DOS.

Going into the weekend, all Dean Spellman and “others” do want you to know is to watch out for Scott Wilbur. They won’t tell you who he is or why, but watch out. Oh— and remember not to talk to him.

Editor's Note: The author of this opinion piece has requested it be published anonymously, due to the nature of the Wilbur threat.