The first time I really questioned my decision to come to Wellesley was on Halloween my first year. My roommate and I wanted to experience our first “college party,” so we decided to dress up as Joy and Sadness from Pixar’s “Inside Out” and walk around campus, confident that a party was happening somewhere. To our dismay, we were back in our room a little over an hour later having failed to find any sort of celebration happening on “Halloweekend.” At first, we wrote it off as a fluke, but as silent Saturday nights became more of a pattern, I began to question student testimonials and admissions material about Wellesley’s community and opportunities outside of academia.
Over the next few years, I spent a lot of time being mad at Wellesley for not giving me “the college experience” to which I felt entitled. I didn’t realize that there was such an intense stress culture, that I would feel very isolated and alone in a small Massachusetts town which seemed wholly separated from the Wellesley College community. I didn’t expect to feel such a disconnect between the student body and the administration. I truly felt alone. Often during these periods of deep sadness and anger, I would ask myself: if I had known, would I have still chosen Wellesley?
Over the summer, a student posted a video on her YouTube channel in which she lists “5 Bad Things About Wellesley College.” In her video, she highlights common criticisms made by current students such as the stress culture, the lack of a social scene, isolation, the dining plan and the lack of institutional support for marginalized groups. Although the student acknowledged that Wellesley is still a great school and that there is a lot to appreciate about it, she felt that there was no outlet where students could have important conversations about Wellesley’s problems. In her video the student articulates, “None of [the administration] talked about [the problems], and I just thought I had a channel. I know something. I want to warn people.” Immediately after the video was uploaded onto her channel, the video received a lot of positive reception and was shared widely on social media. It was then posted on the Class of 2022 Facebook page by a current student. Subsequently, the video was taken down by the administration “for being inaccurate and not being a reflection of everyone’s experience.”
After the video was taken off the page, many students questioned the actions of the administration. Was it ethical for a post to be deliberately removed from a public platform? Does the incoming class have the right to know about Wellesley’s problems before arriving on campus? Where should these conversations about Wellesley’s problems happen if not on social media? Based on my viewing of the video, the student’s intention was not to scare off incoming or prospective students. Rather, she simply wanted to give them a realistic description of Wellesley College that is not well-known until one becomes a student here. The school attempting to censor this student content is not only problematic in the fact that they immediately discredited the experience of this student at Wellesley, it was also an active attempt by the administration to conceal critiques of Wellesley from the incoming class. While it may be controversial to publicize a school’s problems before a student even comes to campus, it is important to allow people to have a comprehensive view of a school before they decide to come. Choosing a school is a big decision that affects a student for a long time. It would be foolish to commit to a school without knowing all you can about it. Students have to consider potential problems they may encounter and take that into consideration when making their decision. Wellesley is a great place, but it is not for everyone. If knowing about criticisms can save someone from choosing a school that isn’t a good fit for them, isn’t it worth it?
It is important to acknowledge however, that the administration has made an effort to address the issues students have with Wellesley. For example, the on-campus party, Remix, was hosted again after a two-year hiatus. New employees in the Office of Residential Life have also been looking into ways to create a vibrant social community on campus. Although these efforts are commendable, students still have the right to speak freely about problems on campus because the only way they will be solved is if we speak about them openly and honestly. The student’s video reached a wide online audience and initiated difficult conversations about honesty in the admissions process, as well as what Wellesley College can do to better the community that a lot of students have a complex relationship with.
I ask myself a lot if I would have chosen Wellesley if a similar video existed when I was a prospective or incoming student. As of now, I think I still would have chosen Wellesley because I wished to forge a college experience on my terms. Of all the things I have learned here, the most important—and hardest—lesson was that college is what you make of it. In the context of Wellesley, I have come to accept that it isn’t perfect, and college is not what I imagined in high school. It shouldn’t be. However, looking at it from a holistic perspective rather than a heavily biased one taught me that. It was something that I had to figure out on my own, but I think it has made me stronger.