This is a site for survivors of sexual misconduct and this story is certainly not about that. But hearing the charges against Mr. Watkins suddenly made an experience I had with him decades earlier make a horrible kind of sense. During my time at Springs Mr. Watkins was still living on campus and he was very involved in the international student community. I'd like to think this was out of a genuinely welcoming heart, but knowing what I know now it strikes me as convenient that these were kids far, far from home in an unfamiliar culture and, as this was before the age of cell phones and email, had parents who were not easily accessible in a crisis.
My freshman year of college was at the time when email was just becoming a thing so in the wonder of it all, you would email just about anyone you knew. Somehow I got Mr. Watkins's address, even though we had never spent a lot of time together at Springs, and struck up a casual correspondence. How's college life? OK. How's Springs? How's [friend] and [friend]? Fine, etc.
Nothing remarkable about it until one day I got an email from him that at the time struck me as so out of character. He complained on and on about how much he did for international students and how no one ever reimbursed him for gas or told him thank you, most of them took him for granted, and so forth and so on.
Mr. Watkins had a reputation for having a heart of gold, the kind of person who just loved doing things for others, and the email disturbed me deeply although I couldn't rationally explain why. He was allowed to have a bad day, right? Maybe Springs really *didn't* reimburse him for gas. Maybe they should do more on that count. Maybe I was just reacting to this idealized version of him that I had from my time at Springs and now that I was at college, it disturbed me that he had become a real person with real problems. Maybe he just wasn't good at writing email. Maybe I was being silly and over-reacting.
Some or all of that might possibly be true, but what I know now is that my emotional distress came from the dropping of the mask, the revelation that someone you thought was acting from pure motives had a darkness to them. It would never in a million years have occurred to me that Mr. Watkins was abusing students - maybe had abused some of my friends for all I know - but that email disturbed me so much that I never contacted him again.
For anyone reading here who may have been a victim of his, I'm sorry for the pain you've experienced and wish you every peace.
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