By Isabele Riser
Almost every student, teacher, and faculty member in our comfy cozy, tight-knit community has been made aware of the surprising actions of some OES students at the OES vs. Catlin Homecoming game, but in case you haven’t, in case you feel like there are some pieces missing; I decided to try and go as in depth as I could and investigate this strange situation for your sake. First, I went to Jordan Elliott for the full story.
How did Catlin get in touch with you, what did that look like?
Jordan: It’s been a good practice for me to be in relationship with the Head of Upper School at Catlin, and so now I’ve been here long enough to know three catlin heads of upper school. So when Dan Griffiths, the current head of Catlin, started three years ago I made an effort to make a relationship with him.
So he and I have an understanding that, when things come up that are related to our students, teachers, and really anyone in our community, we call each other to check in. This happens a few times a year, for various reasons. For example, a parent told me this, or various events like dances and culture shock. So he will call me and I will call him.
So he just gave me a call and he talked to me the Friday of Octoberim, which is why I made the first announcement about this whole situation the following Monday.
Dan started 3 years ago, and so if things come up related to people in our community we call each other culture shock they call each other-and he called me and I talked to him the Friday of Octoberim
Can you tell me as much as possible about what actually happened?
It was very basic. He said they had had some kind of administrative meeting where he heard from the groundskeeping staff, I assume from the head groundskeeper, that at Catlin the actual groundskeepers encountered students who were wearing OES gear and were dumping over trash cans. So the groundskeepers asked the students to stop and the students refused. The groundskeepers then just backed off to avoid confrontation and then came back later to clean it up.
And the way I received it was just a sort of ‘Hey, you should know’ sort of thing. I thanked him and apologized for the whole thing and went on to make that announcement.
Did they give any descriptors other than OES students decked out in OES gear?
Yeah so I actually asked Dan that question and he said that he didn’t get any of that information that would allow us to identify anybody other than they were wearing OES gear.
Do you think it’s at all possible that the students who did this are not in our OES Upper School Community?
Yeah. I think it’s possible. I’ve shared with a couple of people that there has been a really good buzz about this, and I mean good in that people are appalled and frustrated, and that it doesn’t seem like something OES kids would do and I appreciate all of that.
My advisory also suggested it might be a middle school student; when they said it though it wasn’t accusatory it’s just that there is so much conversation about this and no one seems to know who did it, and typically that will start to come up in the Upper School. So, maybe it was a middle school student.
I gave Ann Sulzer, the head of Middle School a heads up on this, not out of blame or redirection but it’s entirely speculation. I’ve also had other suggestions such as, maybe it wasn’t our school, maybe it was another school with similar colors or who knows what, and again, that’s purely speculation.
But I think that people are responding well in that they are appropriately upset. I haven’t had anyone come forward. I wanted the setting in which a student would come forward to be formatted not out of fear of punishment, but more out of understanding that it was a mistake that needs to be made right. In the past people have responded to that kind of call related to different issues.
Assuming the ‘culprits’ won’t come forward, what do you have to say to them?
It’s never too late to come forward, and my intent isn’t punishment. That is not where I’m coming from and I can’t really think of any punishment. That isn’t even where my mind is. I would want to sit down with them and say that there is a rift that exists now between our community and the Catlin Community over this issue, whether it happened or not. Catlin perceives that OES kids are responsible for this really senseless action. So from there I would say how can we take this to Catlin’s head of Upper School and their community and apologize and make this right.
Robin has presented us with a perfect opportunity to fix this and mend it through the restoration of their Mt. Hood Climb Memorial. Our middle school kids were there recently working on that plan. So this is a really perfect in to say that our two communities really are connected and maybe some more work on that project could be a way to communicate that. Not to mention a direct apology to the groundskeepers. It’s not too late.
Can you explain what you feel this did to our relationship with Catlin?
I’d like to say again that I think that it’s good for us to have a rivalry with Catlin. It’s a natural thing to happen when you have two schools that are so similar and very close. It’s healthy when that rivalry happens in academics and athletics between debate teams and on the soccer fields. But it’s actually disrespectful and undermines our standing in the rivalry to do things like this, whether it happened or not, but assuming that OES kids did go and blatantly disrespect those groundskeepers.
So I would say let the actions on the court or the field speak to that rivalry, and to be a good sport and shake their hands afterwards and be respectful is the spirit and relationship we want to have with Catlin. At the end of the day our schools are extremely similar, and there’s no reason alienate them or undermine that relationship between our two schools.
So this obviously struck a personal chord with you, being a Catlin Alum, what aspect of the situation specifically angers you?
Robin: I would say that it’s actually more than being a Catlin Gabel alum: it’s the trash and the disrespect. That’s it. My motto is: if you make a mess clean it up and if you see a mess clean it up. I care about it. It’s a global thing; it’s not just about a goldfish on the floor in the great hall.
Inability to get at the facts aside, if somebody’s job is to clean up after you; that puts you in a one up position and you need to be very respectful of that person, and that disrespect I would say is probably what offended me the most.
How do you think that situation should be approached and how should those students be addressed?
I wish I knew. Because at this point I was hoping someone would come forward and say that they messed up. I also think that it wasn’t anything malicious, but more that people were excited about the soccer game and were being silly and when someone told them to stop they just ran away, or whatever. That could happen not because people were trying to be mean or snotty, but because it just kind of happened, then they became too embarrassed to come forward. So that is what I picture the situation looked like, rather than something deliberate and malicious.
What is your hope for the turnout of this situation?
What I would love to see is some students who had nothing to do with that come forward and offer to be involved in putting together the OES Memorial at Catlin. A few people have said in passing that they would like to be involved already.
(I encourage you to email Robin if you are interested in helping in the OES Mt. Hood Climb Memorial)
Anything else you’d like to add?
When we composed the Essential Competencies, (Commit, Connect, Create, Explore) those were made as statements we want an OES student to be able to make. One thing I want the students to be able to say is I clean up. To me that is very important.
I’m getting the sense that people didn’t think what I said, in gathering wasn’t out of line. More people are shocked about it, but I can see it as more of a really careless thing.
Finally, I asked some students and teachers about their thoughts surrounding the incident, how they felt about it and what their initial reactions were.
What were your initial thoughts when Jordan first made the gathering announcement?
“I was shocked. I was trying to think of an OES kid I know that would do that and I can’t think of one. Especially after our game-with the tie there wasn’t much animosity and it was a well played match.” -Rowan B.
What do you think about this situation as a whole, having taught at Catlin before teaching at OES?
“I just really wish we found out who the kids were. I really appreciated Robin’s Speech. She killed it.” -Lauren S.
What did you think about the incident at Catlin Homecoming?
“I feel like that was something an OES student wouldn’t do and the lack of respect that those people had for the Catlin campus was upsetting. We have a relationship with Catlin. For someone to do that was just rude.” -Brenda C.
The bottom line is that what happened at Catlin wasn’t okay, regardless of who did it or why. Nobody is required to go as far as to volunteer their time and energy to make things right with Catlin — though it would be a huge step in the right direction.
What every OES upper school student should do as a result of this event, is be sure to pick up trash in their daily life, and do everything in our power to keep our spaces on and off campus as clean as possible.