On Nov. 18, Senate voted on whether or not to permit a Lennon Wall, a display of Post-It notes filled with inspiring messages, to be put up in Lulu in support of Hong Kong protesters. The resolution did not pass, with 50.8 percent of senators abstaining, 33.9 percent voting in favor, and 15.3 percent voting against the proposal.
Had it passed, the Lennon Wall would have gone up on the College Government spam board by one of the entrances to the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center. The resolution had been introduced with an information sheet on Nov. 4, and was edited before the final version was presented for a vote. The Lennon Wall proposal was offered by a group of students with ties to Hong Kong, who wanted the wall to affirm and support the protesters’ struggle for justice.
Nora Hoch ‘22, an executive senator from Freeman Hall, said that she voted in favor of the Lennon Wall because it was “a neutral way for the student body to engage with the Hong Kong protests and hopefully learn more about it.” Hoch speculated that there many senators decided to abstain because of the politically charged nature of the Hong Kong protests.
According to the information sheet distributed in Senate, the Lennon wall would have been moderated by the same group of student organizers who proposed the resolution. One point of discussion that surfaced before the vote was about the organizers’ “potential for bias,” according to meeting notes. Specifically, it was called into question whether they could moderate which messages appear on the board impartially because of their ties to the area. They responded that the purpose of a Lennon Wall is not to push a political agenda, but rather to serve as a space for open dialogue. It was also added that organizers would be subject to the Honor Code and would only take down posters that violate SPEC regulations.
Lennon Walls are now typically associated with the Hong Kong protests, though they first surfaced in 1980 in Prague to memorialize the late Beatles singer John Lennon. In 1988, they became a peaceful means of resistance, when young Hungarian protesters used Lennon Walls to oppose the country’s newly instated communist government.
Lennon walls arrived in Hong Kong when the city erupted in the Umbrella Protests of 2014, after the government proposed unpopular reforms to the electoral system. Protesters took to the streets and covered swaths of concrete across the city in Post-It notes, offering messages of hope, freedom and democracy. Contributions to the wall are usually short phrases such as “safe Hong Kong” or “freedom is not free.” In response, Hong Kong police launched an operation to take down all of the Lennon Walls after about two months of protests. They returned midsummer during the 2019 Hong Kong protests, and have since been replicated across the world as a way to signal solidarity with Hong Kongers.
Notably, Lennon Walls have been created in universities, such as those in the United States, Canada and Australia, as well as other locations. There has been controversy surrounding them, as many students from mainland China object to their construction and have called for them to be taken down. In some schools, this has spiraled into conflict –– at University of Queensland in Australia, the Guardian reports that a Lennon Wall was ripped down by four masked intruders, and the same happened at Simon Fraser University in Canada, where some destroyed and defaced the Wall with words like “thug” and “rioters,” according to the South China Morning Post. There have not been any reports of similar incidents happening at universities in the United States.
A week after the vote against the Lennon wall at Wellesley, College Government (CG) President Diana Lam ‘20 issued a statement on behalf of the Cabinet affirming support for international struggles for justice. In the statement, Lam acknowledged that many students are unable to return home because of turmoil in places like Hong Kong, Bolivia and Iran. The email explained that it was important to address “the unrest that has impacted the homes, families and lives of our peers and siblings. We stand with them.” It concluded with a list of resources available to international students, including the contacts for Slater, Intercultural Education, the Dean of Students and Religious and Spiritual Life.
There is currently no plan to move forward with the Lennon wall.