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The Last Remaining Rivet

   When I was a student at the University of Connecticut (here in America) I became the target of group harassment.  The harassment was based on racial profiling because of my race, and my participation in an act of student protest from 1990.  The harassment at UConn (the University of Connecticut) happened between 2003 and 2006 while I was matriculated as a student in landscape architecture.  As in many cases of harassment, no matter what the reason, most of the people participating were ignorant as to all the facts of why it was being done, and some just were enthusiastic about participating in the behavior itself.


    The harassment began with one professor targeting me for harassment.  Eventually he started recruiting other people in the program into the harassment.  Instead of telling people exactly what happened in terms of my past, and letting them decide how they felt about me, or leaving them the option to come and speak with me about it, he chose another route.  

    He began dropping little hints about it with nods and winks sprinkled with a dash of post 9/11 references meant to stir up anger, resentment and panic towards me.  My father was from India and my name and my looks made me the prime candidate for a “looks like one of the FBI’s most wanted” slander campaign.  He found a target for his aims.

    The program had only twenty one people allowed in per graduating class, and this time they allowed twenty two.  This was a small number relative to the number of people in most programs at UConn, and it allowed for an environment wherein an open secret could be easily contained.  The people all the students looked to for leadership and trust were the professors, and those students the professors regularly pointed to as most competent.

    One way they would do this is by breaking up assignments, and handing out pieces of the full package of information needed to fully complete an assignment, for students to share.  If you didn’t get it from one of the students you were out of luck come the due date.  No matter how good you were, thorough or diligent, without doing the whole assignment; your grades would never be able to reach their full potential.

     This also spread the blame, and gave the harassment a level of plausible deniability.  Each person involved would be more likely to cover the next.  Each harasser had something to lose, and thus a reason to lie.  If more people than just me decided to speak out, there would be a sizable contingent of people with a compelling reason to counter the truth with falsehood, and band together in that act.

    The goal of the harassment was to get me out of the program, but to do so by making me do something to prompt that condition.  This was to be done by making me do one of three things.  They wanted me to quit of my own volition, because, they hoped, I would be too stressed out to stay.  If not they wanted me to flunk out because, they hoped, the stress induced had caused my performance to lag and my grades to drop low enough to justify that.   If not, they hoped to cause me to break as a result of the stress and do something that would justify them kicking me out, either from the program or the school entirely.

    No one ever came out and said anything in the open, it was done through signs, nods, winks and coded or subtle speak.  There were many aspects I could be more specific about right now, but I will pick one.  That is what I refer to as the last remaining rivet.  It often happens in such a situation and I noticed it attempted numerous times in different variations, but always the same thing in general.  

    What happens is that in this situation you, the target, is part of a group, and certain forces within that group wish to remove you.  Yet, there are laws governing such things, so those forces need to find ways to get what they want without leaving so many provable traces so as to get caught.  They must find a way to break the laws and get away with it.  They must be criminals, but successful ones.  They may not believe what they are doing is criminal, but most criminals don’t.  It doesn’t make it any less of a criminal act.

    Many different methods are and can be employed to attain such aims in a situation like mine, wherein one person is targeted for extrication from a group in such a way so the perpetrators of the crime don’t get molested by the people enforcing the laws they break.  In this method, the object is to help buffer the entire group from repercussions and harm by acting as a sort of usher out.  

    They befriend the person being targeted and even act as a potential crutch.  At the same time, they find ways to begin to isolate that person from the larger group.  This can be accomplished through a number of methods.  The most common I noticed was by having that ‘last rivet’ holding that person to the group, at least psychologically, be somewhat ‘different’ – ever so slightly of course.  I also noticed, when one fails, they will try another.

    This will probably be employed in many similar situations, whether it is a person being harassed for their religion, their race, their ethnicity, their gender, their political affiliation, their sexual identity or any other of the myriad reasons people use to justify to themselves, or the larger group, targeting others for such behavior.

    As an example, say a woman is sexually harassed by her superior at work and files a complaint.  That boss then decides to retaliate by driving her from the workplace.  But, to accomplish this he decides he must use others from the group, in this case the workplace, to accomplish his goal.  Like in my case he first starts himself with little things under the radar, which are deniable.  

    If that proves insufficient, the harasser may then pull others from the group in to help extract the targeted individual.  If others come in they may first do so because they wish to, most likely due to a shared belief system or because they simply enjoy doing it.  Next, as happened in my case of harassment, they bribe people with things, from making life more comfortable, to other conveniences.  If there are still ‘resistors’ they will make life uncomfortable and inconvenient for them, so they either get the message to participate, or at least stand aside and shut up.  The less they do the fewer ‘benefits’ they get.

    Once the correct pieces are in place they will begin a series of strategies to get that person out.  They will start somewhere and have an ending.  At that ending will be, they hope, the desired result of getting rid of that person from the group.  They may use a strategy incorporating betrayal as a way to make the targeted person feel like leaving, for example.  If they still prove too tough and desire to keep their rightful, and earned position, then they may employ the ‘last remaining rivet’ technique.

    Here, they will have someone befriend the targeted person.  They will usually choose someone who has been viewed as slightly odd for whatever reason to be a shoulder to lean on, and simultaneously to isolate that person from the rest of the group, including those who genuinely like and feel sorry for the person being harassed.  They will admit to seeing the behavior usually, and talk about how they’ve been through it themselves.  They may even begin to be openly picked on in front of the targeted person and even others to lend credence to the act.

    The person acting as the ‘last rivet’ will probably try, to varying degrees, to get the person targeted for harassment to start thinking about leaving voluntarily.  This way, they hope, the targeted person is already facing the exit, has one foot out the door or has the wedge between themselves and their thoughts of remaining with the group driven deeper as it were.  So now, when the trap is sprung and the next strategy is completed and they feel (hopefully) psychologically disenchanted, the hope is the target will feel as though there is little to nothing left holding them to the group.  

    The target has been isolated from the group through this person, who they already view as slightly weird, and who probably began acting even more strangely just to get the people who sympathized with the target to feel less sympathetic due to their association with that strange person.  Just before the final move or around it or perhaps as the final move in the strategy, the last person, this slightly odd character, the targeted person viewed, they hope, was their last remaining tie to the group, slows or completely breaks their interactions with them.

    This displaces the last remaining thing which riveted the target to the group and the target is thoroughly isolated and feels psychologically removed from the group, the harassers’ hope.  The goal is to get the targeted person to feel discouraged, defeated and betrayed due to whatever scam they carried out to burn them.  Simultaneously, they want the target to feel all alone now that that last remaining person is no longer around for them to lean on, and to help them out when the heat was turned up.

    That person, they hope, was the last remaining rivet.  They were the last thing holding the targeted individual to the group emotionally and intellectually.  The hope is psychologically this will lead to the target deciding to leave, or will lead the target to do something rash, justifying them being forcibly extricated from the group.

    There are many strategies employed and I will discuss more in the future, that is one tactic which may be employed.  I heard them referring, often enough, to these tactics as things used in the workplace.  There are many ways to deal with this, but first - know it when you see it.  Things can always be coincidental; keep that in mind also.  

    I managed to stick it out and graduate.  There are many different ways I did this; you need to find your own path, as they will be unique to each situation.  This is something to let folks being harassed know they are not alone, and to serve as help and perhaps a utensil.  Knowledge always helps, and information can be useful.  If you find you are in such a position, file a report, but make sure you collect evidence.  This is the information age, and video, audio and documents are all assets.  Keep a journal with times and dates.  Find them.  Collect them.  Don’t be scared to unleash them in the future.  

Find your way to get justice, and more importantly to stand up for yourself.  Only through standing up do we leave behind the status of being victims, and walk away into true hope.  That goes for witnesses also.  If you see it, try as you can.  Don’t allow yourself to be ruined, but don’t stand by either.  Be part of the community, not a picture on the wall of someone who used to live there.

  There are many ways for victims to stand up.  I write as a way to do it.  For you there may be other ways.  Find them, and realize them.  Make them as real as you can make them, and try and maintain a healthy sense of humor whenever you can, however you do, wherever you go. If you plan on going to college here in America, remember this and keep it in mind.

    To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.



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