Jennie sat in the lobby of Springs University Students centre at exact 7:00 in the evening. Her Conduct Board hearing would begin in twenty-five minutes.
She had opted to attend the hearing without the Faculty Advisor, who would act somewhat like a lawyer for her. She would have laughed at the security personnel's suggestions, except they were serious.
The entire hearing was a joke to Jennie, and the idea of a "lawyer" seemed ludicrous in light of the trivial altercation with her roommate. She had simply told the officers. "No, thank you" when they offered her to submit a faculty member's name, wondering who on earth could testify on her behalf.
Glancing at the watch, Jennie groaned. It was 7:26. She stood, and unexpectedly, her heart began to pound.
"Why I'm I nervous" she pondered as she opened the door to the room in which the case would be held.
The room set up is similar to a courtroom, except that the university's desks, tables and chairs were being used for the effect. She giggled uneasily as she glanced across the room at the Conduct Board members, who were mostly students, seated at the long table facing her. There were two college professors on the board, and one Mr. Charles, her Biology 302 professor.
Jennie was directed to sit down in a chair in front of everyone, and the hearing began. A student introduced herself and read Jennie what she thought would be her rights. But instead the students explained that Jennie was under Springs University's Code of Conduct and would be held accountable for any false testimony.
She went ahead to tell Jennie that the case could not be discussed with any member of the board outside the room and that Jennie was forbidden to approach any of them concerning the hearing.
"Do you have any questions?" She asked Jennie
She had to ask Jennie twice before receiving a response, which was more a mumble and a shake of the head than it was a clear answer.
"You, Jennie Douglass, have been charged with the physical assault of Thelma Anthony" she informed her. "How would you plead?"
"Physical assault? How would I plead? This all had to be a joke. These students couldn't be serious" Jennie thought to herself
"How do you plead, Miss Douglass" the student repeated expecting a clear answer from the accused sitting right in front of the Board.
"Not guilty" she replied after realizing that they were serious about the physical assault allegation.
The students directed Jennie's roommate to sit in the desk that was about three feet from where Jennie sat. "Thelma" the student began again, "tell the board exactly what happened last night"
Thelma began uneasily, but minutes later, she articulately described the incident recounting how she had tired to apologize to Jennie for misplacing her class project notebook, when Jennie began to rain all sort of offences on her. She further explained how Jennie had violently tired punching her out of anger. Afraid, Thelma explained, she tired to fight back since Jennie wasn't trying to go easy on her, but to no avail.
Daniella testified next and told the board what she had seen. Daniella is Thelma's friend, she had followed Thelma to her room on the day of the incident. Daniella carried on dramatically, and Jennie was amazed at how Daniella's three minutes at the scene had turned into nearly thirty minutes of expression, gestures and reenactments. She told the board that she had left the room out of fear for her safety, afraid that Jennie would attack her next. She said after she left the room, she hurriedly went to fetch the security.
Jennie began to feel overwhelmed now wishing she had opted to have a Faculty Advisor by her side, not so much for her defence but for comfort and supporting.
However, she had no one, leaving her feeling isolated and alone as she was painted a villain. The room harbored an unfriendly atmosphere that she could not breaks she imagined that it would not matter what she said at that point, and she was certain that she had lost the case.
Jennie's stomach began to knot and her head ached. She swallowed. She wanted nothing more than to just get up, leave and never come back. But there was no escape. Her hands that were folded neatly in front of her began to shake. She could visibly see how her skin gets covered by goosebumps. She quickly removed her hands from the table and placed them on her lap, where her palms began to sweat. Jennie dabbed her palms on her linen skirt, she was trying to control her nervousness.
The voices in the room were far away now, mere whispers in the background, and Jennie's mind drifted back to her home, to the day her father threatened to not support her academics if she gets expelled from school or have any case of suspension.
She had effortfully convinced her dad to allow her pursue her career as a medical practitioner. Jennie had gained admission into Springs University exactly three years ago and her education was being threatened by the financial status of her family. Her mother died after she gave birth to Jennie in the hospital. So, Jennie never got to know her mother, but a picture of her mother that hung on the wall in her room confirmed that she looked exactly like her mother. Jennie's father and herself survived with the meager salary her father earned as a delivery man in a chicken restaurant.
"Daddy" Jennie chanted aloud emotionally "you can't let my dreams get buried just like that. Didn't you promise to always be there for me? Where are all the promises you made to me? You know I always wanted to be a surgeon" by the time Jennie finished her statement tears had started forming around her eyelids. She felt disappointed in her father.
"I promised to always be there for you, but you know how much I earn from my job and all the expenses I need to cater for, the house rent, your feeding and all of that" her father lamented.
"But daddy, please" Jennie pleaded. The tears that formed around her eyelids had started flowing down her check. A drop of the tears landed on her chest, Jennie dabbed it away with the otherside of her right palm.
The look on Jennie's face really bothered her father. He couldn't afford letting his daughter down at the same time he had to weigh his income relative to his daughter's demand.
Jennie kept a keen stare at her father waiting for his response. Finally, her father responded.
"Fine. I will cater for your university expenses..."
Jennie didn't allow her father to end his statement, she gathered her hands around her father's neck and hugged him tightly.
"Thanks Daddy. I love you so much"
"But on one condition."
Jennie's hopes and excitement got hit by her father's sudden announcement. She loosened her grip on her father waiting to hear what the condition was.
"If you get suspended or expelled from school, then, I will withdraw from financing your university education" her father said with a stern expression
"Yes, yes, deal" Jennie replied as her excitement got replenished again. "I have always been a good girl"
"It's a deal then"
"Jennie" the student who headed the Conduct Board repeated.
"Oh, um, yes" Jennie said unintentionally shut out her surrounding.
The student blinked, and again inquired, "Do you have anything to add to the testimony?"
All eyes fell on Jennie. The student and faculty board members shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. Even Mr. Charles stared at her now, anticipating a response.
"Um, no," she answered finally without thinking.
"No?" The student repeated, disbelieving. "Are you sure you've nothing to add?". She waited for a response. "This is your time to speak, Jennie," she reminded, "without interruption"
Jennie glanced nervously about the room. Everyone was waiting her, focusing on her. There was nothing to say. She had no side of her story, Thelma wasn't lying. She actually attacked Thelma out of annoyance. She didn't know what actually happened, but what she discovered was that she had never felt that angry before in her life. Thank God for Daniella who went to call the security or else, something bad could have happened to Thelma, because she was unable to get hold of her anger.
"What happened last night?" A student board member asked
"Did you shove Thelma to the bed, causing the head injury?" Another asked.
"Yes" Jennie managed to mumble loud enough for the board to hear. "I was defending myself" Jennie added that to her statement, just to make the board look pitiful on her concerning their discussion on her case. Because what she was alleged for could cost her to be expelled from the University. And however, if she said she did that to defend herself, the penalty for the crime may be waved off or maybe melted out with mercy.
A million questions seemed to come to her at once, but amazingly she managed to answer them all without implicating herself. When they had run out of questions, Jennie was allowed to leave.
"The decision of the Conduct Board will be made known to you, through your faculty's Dean. You are excused," the student dismissed her.
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