Attendees depart this year’s conference somewhat disappointed
SARA RATHOD ’15
Last weekend, members of College Government (CG) Cabinet along with a select few general student body members attended the annual Seven Sisters Conference, hosted this year by Vassar College. The conference rotates alphabetically between the seven colleges, and Wellesley is scheduled to host next year.
The conference focuses on student leadership, featuring topics of discussion such as student government and organizations, professional development and college histories. The remaining institutions of the original Seven Sisters are Bryn Mawr, Barnard, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley—the seventh being Radcliffe College, which merged with Harvard University in 1977. Conference-goers from Wellesley arrived on Friday night and left on Saturday evening before the formal dinner.
While they look forward to planning the meeting at Wellesley, attendees were disappointed by the structure of this year’s conference, which included fewer than expected opportunities for discussions about how to best govern a student body and for networking with counterparts at other schools.
“I was disappointed in the way that it was run,” Chief Justice Lily Elsner ’14 said, “because I wanted to talk to my specific counterparts.”
Elsner did, however, manage to track down the students in charge of administering their school’s code of conduct—the equivalent of the Honor Code at Wellesley.
“I actually did a lot of wheeling and dealing and found out who my counterparts were while they were there, and I’m continuing email threads, learning from them about what they do,” she said.
Although Vassar is now a co-ed school, it is still included in the conference, and both male and female students attend each year. Attendees welcomed the participation of the co-ed college, which shares a similar history to Wellesley and other members of the Seven Sisters.
“I think they bring in different and new perspectives to the conference,” Jasmine Gums ’15 said of the presence of male student leaders. Gums is a member of the coordinating board for next year’s conference. “I personally didn’t mind it.”
However, some felt that the structure of the conference was not conducive to co-ed collaboration.
“Because it wasn’t organized very well, a lot of the Vassar guys didn’t really participate in that they were kind of off on the side on the couches,” CG communications chair Anna Blige ’16 said.
Among other things, the conference provides an opportunity for members of CG Cabinet to explore new possibilities for their roles in the school’s governance. For instance, Smith College has two different honor boards—one for academic violations and the other for non-academic violations. Wellesley has one board that deals with all cases, a distinction of great interest to Elsner.
Members of the conference learned as much about student life as they did about various institutions on campus.
“A lot of them have heard of public streaking at Wellesley or skinny-dipping in Lake Waban, and they had a lot of similar traditions,” Blige said.
While Wellesley’s sister schools share similar traditions, most put more planning into the celebration of Founder’s Day—during which students gather to celebrate those who founded their college—than Wellesley does.
Mount Holyoke celebrated the 175th anniversary of its founding last year with a series of events, including a display of sports uniforms, equipment and other memorabilia throughout the years, a program entitled “History of Women’s Studies and Gender Studies at Mount Holyoke” and a sample of more than a century of Mount Holyoke fashions from their antique clothing collection. Although the tradition has been neglected at Wellesley in recent years, CG did arrange a small gathering last year, which included a gallery of artwork, artifacts and old photographs that have been collected over the College’s history as well as a cake to celebrate the birthday of the College.
Those who are planning next year’s conference at Wellesley hope to invite more deans as well as President H. Kim Bottomly. They also aim to facilitate more exchanges between student leaders from all colleges and dedicate time to building personal bonds between individual conference-goers.
“I’m excited for next year,” Gums said. “…We’re going to take a lot of what we learned from the conference and incorporate it into what we’re going to do next year.”
Planning has just begun and will continue to develop over the next year. This will be the first time Wellesley has ever hosted the Seven Sisters Conference since the tradition began in 2009.
Sara is a junior studying Political Science and Economics. Follow her on Twitter @SaraRathod.