Edit desk: The ‘best’ four years


Nicole Walker

The senior survey question flashed on the screen, and I felt my eyebrows furrow. 

“If you had the chance to relive your college experience, would you choose to attend Lehigh again?”

My general consensus with opinion questions is to go with my first instinct, which was a resounding “no way.” 

I stopped myself from answering too quickly and actually thought about it.

As soon as I got my acceptance to Lehigh, I knew Lehigh was “the one.” My family huddled around our kitchen table as I opened the welcome envelope and read the official acceptance letter. My family was incredibly proud of me, and, for the first time in a while, I was proud of myself.

This moment of joy gets lost when I think about Lehigh.

Instead, I think about how I cried in the Title IX Office asking for help in navigating my case of relationship violence. I think about how I cried alone in my room when no help was provided.

Having this happen so early into my college career affected every aspect of my life. I would take longer paths around campus to avoid student hot spots in case I ran into someone who made me uncomfortable. I lost my self-esteem and confidence when I was supposed to be succeeding. 

This semester, I listened to faculty and students talk about similar problems that happened to them, and my disgust with this school grew.

I felt most defeated as I constantly watched the Path to Prominence emphasize a need for more structures, not services. The wellbeing of the people who truly make up Lehigh was lost. 

Based on these aforementioned problems, of course I wouldn’t want to attend Lehigh again. I can’t count how many times transferring actually crossed my mind. 

However, my adversity to Lehigh’s administration doesn’t encompass my college experience, and it would be wrong of me to not be fair in this analysis.

Underneath my frustration is an air of gratitude.

The Counseling Center worked with me as long as their resources could afford, and I found solace in having someone to speak to weekly. 

I was lucky that the departments of my two majors, English and anthropology, valued fostering relationships between professors and students. When I was struggling with mental health, my professors always took time to step out of the academic bubble and help me find a solution.

I reignited a high school hobby of designing by applying to be a designer for The Brown and White. Nights in the newsroom brought me friendships that I’m not sure I would have formed otherwise.

How can I equate my worst experiences at Lehigh to some of the most fulfilling moments in my life? 

I can’t.

Happiness and sadness can’t be placed on a scale where they cancel each other out. Every experience is allowed to be as appreciated or grieved as needed.

At the end of it all, it’s an impossible question to answer. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have had the same experiences at a different college, nor can I say that knowing all of these things would have affected my choice.

I created a transfer portal but never had the heart to fill it out. Maybe this was due to my blind optimism that everything would get better eventually or my stubbornness to stick a decision out to the end.

With this particular opinion question, I tried to sift through the facts for guidance. But the fact of the matter is, I can’t imagine a different college experience.

As graduation nears, I’ve been asked countless times how I feel about graduating, and I always end up circling back to that senior survey question.

Encapsulating four years into a concise answer on a survey is impractical. I will never say I fully enjoyed my time at Lehigh. 

But to get where I am today, surrounded by people who support and love me and with a soon-to-be degree in areas I have loved studying, I would have to do it all again.

Nicole Walker is the design editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected].

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1 Comment

  1. Amy Charles ‘89 on

    Hey. Karen Salvemini.

    It’s been thirty-some freaking years since the whole campus turned itself inside out after Jeanne Clery’s rape and murder, and slightly less since Lehigh fought her parents tooth and nail when they tried to do something about Lehigh’s wall of lies over it. It’s just less than that since my own rape at Lehigh.

    What do I see in the Brown and White these days? A pervy doc and warnings and complaints about him ignored. A pervy, assaultive English prof and complaints about him ignored. A girl up here who went and cried to you for help. Bupkes.

    You’re supposedly on the job now. When are we going to stop hearing these stories about Lehigh? What are you doing about it? Are you just taking orders and protecting your job, there, or are you actually working on behalf of the victims?

    A few years ago, I wrote to you about something called Project Callisto, which helps people like Nicole. USF uses it. U of Oregon uses it. Stanford uses it. A bunch of schools use it. It helps ID serial perps and helps a school actually do something about them.


    I wrote to you about it a few times. You never responded or acknowledged any of my emails.

    Is there anyone who’s come through your office since 2015 who’d be willing to say, “Karen really helped me when I got attacked at Lehigh”? Anyone who might say, “Because of Karen, the person who attacked me was removed from campus, and I was able to go to school without feeling like I had to keep looking around for my perp, I really feel like Lehigh had my back”? Anyone at all? Because I’d really love to hear someone stand up and say that.

    I’m not seeing it in your brochures, which all but say “are you sure you want to make a complaint?” The resolution process seems to involve putting everything right back on the victim: we’ll change your schedule, we’ll move your residence, we’ll turn your life upside down *some more*. And where are your training materials? What I see online of what you’re offering for compliance is rudimentary and outdated — if that’s what there is, no wonder Lehigh keeps getting sued.

    Nicole: don’t give these people any more money. From here on in, every time you feel like you should be a good alum and give Lehigh money, you give it to a local women’s/survivor’s organization.

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