I stand here today with the wisdom and the rage of my ancestors within me, the grace of my strong single mother surrounding me and the unconditional love of my friends supporting me. It is because of all of these people that I will be graduating a year early with a double major in Political Science and Studio Art and an honors thesis focusing on decoloniality and artmaking—but I am an exception.
I stand here for every Anjali and Kamaria and Dina and Caitlyn who will have the great privilege and misfortune of attending this institution. We are doing the work that the majority of our peers will never have to do, and yet, here I am, reiterating needs that have been heard before but left unchanged for the benefit of your convenience, your wallets and your egos.
I expect more.
I expect more from a place whose propaganda continually boasts about diversity and a commitment to women while only supporting the few whose histories are not as vibrant or complicated as our own. I expect more because I hold this institution accountable for the countless alumnae that I have the privilege to speak to daily who leave here broken and forever changed.
I began here and was welcomed into a community of seniors of color committed to protecting the hearts of those of us who had not yet been victimized by institutional negligence, bigoted faculty and departmental oversight. Those of us who had not yet been victimized by a highly homogenous community and more broadly a hostile town and nearby city. Hard as they tried, the realities of being here soon met us, arms open wide.
But what this place did not realize was that we are a generation that will not tolerate discrimination and neglect by the very institution that claims to champion women and their civic engagement.
We will not stand for the silencing of the concerns of our most valuable populations. We will not be quieted, brushed aside, isolated, gendered or invalidated. And no longer will you use our bodies, our labor, our culture and our individuality to ensure the survival of a dying higher education system that gouges us of our dignity, our financial independence, our fight, our traditions and our shine.
We are the femmes, gender non conforming and trans visionaries of your future, so support us, hear us and show your commitment to our survival with your money, your time, your voices and actionable policy that will directly impact our experience here, for the better.
And if I have seemed hyperbolic with anything at all that I have said, let me be clear: this is about institutional responsibility.
1. Students of color need faculty of color who require actionable institutional support for contributing labor that their white counterparts will never have to.
2. Title IX is not enough. Wellesley must create a companion policy to effectively discipline faculty, especially those who are tenured, for discrimination in all of its forms. Let’s be real: those in positions of power will only learn when their wallets and their egos are threatened.
3. Acting out of fear of wealthy alumnae with antiquated views will only isolate your future base of supporters: choose us.
4. Check in with us. Provide us with competent healthcare and counseling services.
5. Provide further oversight when it comes to projects not funded by the college that work to invalidate our many experiences, and yes, I’m talking about the Freedom Project.
6. We need inclusive curriculum. Make our histories accessible in 100-level classes, and not as a caveat, but as a real and necessary dimension of our collective experience.
7. Stop forming committees and start enacting policy. Allowing good intention to fall victim to red tape and the numerous hoops set up by institutions to quiet urgent needs does not help our cause.
8. See your minority retention issue in the sciences: we are disproportionately weeded out of your prized departments due to professors teaching to those who have had the privilege to access advanced information before us.
9. Reframe Withdrawal/Leave of absence/Incomplete etc. policies. They often are what make or break our success.
10. Transparency! Be transparent about all available options that we have during our time here and about the intentions of the college as a whole.