Wellesley College has a long history of connection to the US military. During WWII, the Wellesley women generously shared their campus space with navy boys, hosting a Naval Reserve Officer Training program (NROTC). Wellesley’s president Mildred H. McAfee (1936-1949) was the Navy’s first female line officer and director of WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) during WWII. Wellesley has educated female veterans and future female officers through MIT ROTC for years. And most poignantly, most Wellesley students have familiar or friendly connections to veterans and active duty service men and women. And yet, the Wellesley College administration has consistently demonstrated apathy and disregard for Veterans Day.
For Veterans Day 2015, Wellesley failed to organize any memorial service or gathering in honor of American veterans. Also, unlike many other schools in the area like its partner school MIT, Wellesley did not cancel classes. Having classes and no on-campus service makes attending even an off-campus memorial service (like those hosted at MIT, Harvard, and Tufts) nearly impossible for any committed student. Schedule conflicts are likely, and a commute to and from Boston takes two hours. Perhaps most dismal though was the College’s apparent denial of the day’s existence, let alone significance — there were no displays of American flags, no emails of acknowledgement from administrators, and the College’s prominent ‘Daily Shot’ that dominates its webpage featured nothing about American veterans (nor did it in 2014). Veterans Day and Diwali, which fell on the same day this year, are of great importance to various Wellesley students and alumna; both should have been acknowledged, yet only Diwali was. Despite the fact that these gestures are low cost and nearly effortless, the administration chose not to make the respectful decision and recognize Veterans Day.
Was Veterans Day 2015 an anomaly, though? Alas, recent administrative actions say no. In fact, this apathy towards Veterans Day represents a larger attitude within the Wellesley College administration that overlooks the American identity, an identity often characterized by patriotism and reverence to the armed forces. The administration consistently hosts no events for 9/11 remembrance, Memorial Day, or Veterans Day, and gives little to no support to Wellesley graduates and other Americans currently serving. Wellesley grad (now retired) CPT Courtney Wilson (2008) was featured on the cover of the New York Times Health in March 2015, but Wellesley gave no ‘high-fives’ or ‘thumbs-up’ to its decorated graduate. Also this year three women passed Ranger School for the first time in history, certainly a feat for all women in the workforce. Wellesley gave no cheers.
I am suspicious that this attitude (or lack thereof) towards the American identity emerges from a conflation between support of American soldiers and American policy. Remnant of how college administrations condemned the military during the war in Vietnam, ‘American patriotism’ has once again become a dirty phrase. In their condemnation of American policies like the PATRIOT act and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, administrations also steer clear of all things and people military. However this conflation is false, and it leads to the ignoring of historical fact; students at Wellesley have always and continue to be affected by war, and many of them identify as patriotic Americans. Whether for display of patriotism, reverence to the fallen, or support of those still serving, Wellesley College has a duty to do more for the troops.
Caroline Bechtel ’17