Tampa’s Damian Hospital at USF
Adventures of Damian Hospital- when he was 18!
Recounted by Brett Goldman
Damian Hospital chose University of South Florida as his college for 1996, and he qualified for the Honors Program. Coming from the IB Program in Boyd Anderson High School, he felt prepared academically for the coursework, although he would later underestimate the amount of time he would have to focus and study at college. The one thing that no organization or person had prepared the 18-year old, however, was living on his own and trying to be part of a new society with no guidance or trustworthy adults.
First Impressions Should Have Been Everything
Damian recalls that his first experience at USF was an omen for things to come, and that he should have taken the hint that USF wasn’t a good match with him, but due to the college application process (both costly and time consuming) it was too late. During the formality of orientation (which was around $50, plus airfare), Damian noticed only two fellow Boyd Anderson classmates. Granted, Damian wanted to have a new beginning, but not having any previous buddies made him feel truly alone. The two students were both girls- Crystal and Fabien. Damian knew Fabien from their dramatic play they performed together at BA, but they were not open to friendship then, and he was barely an acquiescence of Crystal’s, although she seemed friendly enough. Neither offered any interest with him to team up with studying, help with getting around, meeting new friends, or even being accessible to him.
Damian felt alone during the orientation seminars: all of the other students brought their parents and siblings. At $50 a head plus transportation, this was too much of a burden for Damian to ask of his family, although his mother would have surely joined. Damian told her that this is a lesson for him to be on his own. Well, he learned something all right: his time at USF would be that of a social pariah. Everyone else seemed to know what was going on and in the program. Damian felt like he was invited to a wedding and didn’t know anyone, so he become a wall flower.
It Gets Worse
Things got from socially awkward to downright criminal as he went to his room, which was Theta Hall. Some other male students in the orientation went there, but most students went with their families to bigger halls or hotels in Tampa. The room wasn’t solo, and Damian’s roommate was a much older man. He was chubby, balding, had aviator glasses on, and breathed hard. It was in the mid-afternoon, and the orientation had nothing scheduled. With no car, friends, or family Damian just stayed in the bed and stared at the ceiling. The weird guy took a nap in one of the most uncomfortable situations in Damian’s young life as a teen.
Then it was time to attend a campus police orientation. Damian did not know why a campus had to have its own police force (it’s something that a high school student doesn’t muse about). The police lectured about the students having a student ID on their person at all times, having a car decal, alcohol, and…date rape. In fact the bulk of the session was about date rape. This was new to Damian as well.
Damian wanted to feel protected and listened to the police offer spokesman since Damian was a law abiding citizen and a victim of a violent street crimes in both Brooklyn, New York and Lauderhill, Florida. After the session, the officer allowed one-on-one interactions in front of his crime statistics chart. The auditorium cleared out immediately as all of the students saw this as a mandatory bore fest.
However, Damian- who was shy- approached the officer and made some small talk to bond with the cop, maybe get his name or face recognized when school started in case Damian needed help. Instead the policeman warned Damian that he had the potential to commit date rape and lectured Damian not to get wasted at clubs. It seemed as if the officer just viewed the freshman as a crime statistic and had no faith that he was speaking with a teen with no vices or murky history when it came to drugs or sex. Damian tried to explain that he didn’t even go to night clubs, but the cop didn’t listen. Damian shook his hand, but the cop wasn’t buying. The omens continued to warn Damian.
When he was walking to another building (he was lost so doubled back to retrace his steps), he was stopped by a female police officer in a patrol car. She suspected that he was not supposed to be on campus and asked for a student ID that he was not given yet. Not believing him, she threatened that she didn’t want to see him again. Sure enough she did see him walking around looking for a building, so she drove the car in front of him and harassed him again, saying that she will escort him off campus if he doesn’t find where he’s supposed to be very soon. Damian thought to himself that being an adult is not what it’s cracked up to be.
Damian attended an Honors seminar and the head Mr. Silverman was the speaker. He seemed nice enough, but once school started Damian never saw him again.
The orientation didn’t include food, and the on-campus fast food eateries, such as Subway, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, had closed early. The so-called grocery which was advertised on USF’s brochure was overpriced and had a limited selection- it was more like a gas station than a real grocery or supermarket. Like South Florida, Tampa’s campus was biased towards those with their own transportation. He had none. So he didn’t eat.
No Help to Stop a Pervert
Damian dreaded night time because he had to share the room with the weird older guy again. This time it was worse. With no orientation, social activities, TV, computer, books, or anything to keep themselves distracted, they went to sleep at sundown. The man eventually began to touch himself under the blanket and began to make disgusting noises as he masturbated. Being only a few feet away from him in the spartan dormitory, Damian froze and waited for the degenerate to cease. After Damian thought the man fell asleep, he quietly yet quickly ran out of the room.
Damian noticed that the only people running the campus during orientation were actual students who were just acting like authority figures. Theta Hall itself had no front desk, so Damian wandered to Theta’s post office. The young person behind the counter looked bored as a small black-and-white television kept him company. Damian explained the situation and requested another room. No can do. He was told that there were no extra rooms. He directed Damian to go to another hall and ask for assistance. Damian burned slightly with an inner rage; he felt that there was a double standard; if he had been a woman, surely he would have been accommodated. He felt as if no one believed him or cared about him.
Damian Hospital used his maps to locate the other building. Once again he asked for help, with the implication being that a crime was being committed in his room by a pervert, but the student in charge said his hands were tied. He asked for the man’s name, which Damian gave him. The student recognized the name and wasn’t surprised, and started to complain about him but refused to say what he had done before. So…a repeat offender, could he be kicked out of the room? Nah. Damian had to sleep on the floor in a hallway. Thanks for nothing, folks, Damian said to himself. He called his mother collect (this was before cell phones, smart phones, or text messages) and told her the situation.
The flight home didn’t even end well. Unlike everyone else, Damian had no luggage (just a small book-bag in which he carried on the plane). So when the airplane landed, Damian stood up quickly after the seat belt sign was turned off, and began to walk down the aisle. This act offended an older short man with glasses, who attacked Damian for skipping him. He not only yelled at Damian, but he pushed him back. Damian walked right through him and ignored his insults. The situation quickly became even more awkward as there was delay up front, so Damian had to stand in front of the bitter man for 10 minutes before the line moved.
And this was before Day 1 of his freshman year. For Damian Hospital, his USF experience got much worse, believe it or not. Before you judge him, keep in mind we as a society tend to overrate the capabilities of 18-years olds and this was his first time in a new city by himself.
It should be noted that Damian did have three new friends at USF, and they did not have these types of negative experiences. And all three were shy, but two had cars, two had family relatively nearby, and one was streetwise. So your mileage will vary. Here’s another footnote: they all had BAs in fields totally unrelated to their current professions.
What lessons can we derive from this story? Parents and students for freshmen at USF (or any other university) alike should take notice:
-Although a teenager wants to be on his or her own, the fantasy is better than the reality. This can be hard to swallow, but I’d recommend a college close by or for close friends or siblings to be going or already at the school. If not possible, thankfully with today’s technology we have webcams, no long distance issues with mobile phones, social applications, and text messaging.
-Food will be an issue if the teen has never cooked before. Poor habits can form quickly.
-If affordable, a car is recommended.
-See if there’s a school therapist. Damian was not aware or told if one existed.
-Reinforce that drinking under the age of 21 is illegal and so is drug use.
-Remember that being 18 means the law sees you as an adult and the police and courts will throw the book at you for any crime you commit.
-Stay within your age group, as older students will prey upon trusting and gullible 18 year olds. Thirty year old guys on campus aren’t cool- they are actually perverted for hanging around 18-year old girls.
-Regarding friendships, kind individuals may reach out to even the most shy person, so you will find friends. Be content with your handful of friends, because that’s all you need. Don’t have anxiety about not being the big man on campus or the most sought-after girl. Be skeptical of special interest groups or Greek letter organizations that will approach you and promise you social happiness.
-Study, study, study. Take schoolwork seriously and aim for straight A’s. Law school and medical school may be too expensive for grad school, but you can become a professional if you choose the right major and aced college even with just a BA. If you are ambitious and feel grad school is worth the price and can guarantee you six figures right away (it can’t), you still need excellent grades in grad school, so be sure to study.
University of South Florida considerations
-USF is a huge campus (it’s actually too big), has dozens of buildings, 30000 undergraduates, hundreds of teachers, large classes, and depending on your class schedule you need a bicycle to get around.
-USF has been linked to Islamic think tanks.
-Don’t be sold on USF’s location: you’ll only go to Busch Gardens once, so it doesn’t matter how close it is, and if you make the wrong turn you’ll be in a ghetto. The night club scene is said to be very hot there, but it’s just a distraction and you’ll lose your innocence there.
-If you’re going to USF for its athletic program, I have to ask you: why not UM or UF?
-There’s no mention of God on campus (except for the Islamic special interest groups and liberal professors teaching that He’s a myth).
-There no real reason to go to USF unless you live in Tampa, in which you should be looking into Hillsborough Community College for two years or the private university, University of Tampa if you want to stay close to home. If you live elsewhere in Florida, USF has nothing over your local colleges. If you are coming from out of state, don’t even bother. You might as well spend your money on a private local college in your state rather than the out-of-state tuition that USF charges. There is no good reason for an out-of-stater to come to USF. For Floridians: the quality of education depends on specific professors, specific program, and coursework. Your mileage will vary everywhere.