I’m currently conducting a sociology independent study on the history of Wellesley College’s moral development from 1960 to 2020. A mouthful – I know. What it means, in practice, is spending at least ten hours a week reading through old Wellesley News archives and noting anything the campus found important enough to protest about.
My academic conclusion is totally different from the one I’m describing here, though. I’m flabbergasted a bit, so I figured I’d share: Wellesley College has stopped trying to pop the Wellesley Bubble.
I know, we constantly advocate for better opportunities to access the outside world, and there are people working hard on this campus to improve such resources. The problem, when compared to periods with far less access or resources, is that modern Wellesley students don’t often try to get anywhere substantial on these buses and trains.
We complain about geographic isolation, yet in the ’70s we had a Washington D. C. correspondent and regular papers on Wellesley involvement in news around the Boston Metro Area. We didn’t even have a free weekday shuttle, but we stayed so much more in touch with the outside world. Even at a time with limited Wellesley capital, students refused to disengage with greater society. They brought their own gas masks and sleeping bags to stage a mass die-in at the airport on Earth Day, 1970:
“High Mass: Logan Airport, north Terminal, 6 p.m.: Mock funeral for victims of genocide in SE Asia, racism in America, and biocide from pollution. Occupation of coffins; leafletting [sic]; Guerrilla Theater… individuals participating are requested to remain peaceful, not to violate the civil rights of passengers. Die-In will end at 10 p.m.” (The Wellesley News, 4/16/1970)
This wasn’t a nationally organized event — this was Wellesley and MIT students working together to protest a national issue. It was a period of economic recession so severe that it impacted the number of faculty that Wellesley tenured, yet students still prioritized staying plugged in to the world outside our acres.
Even if we ignore the Boston Metro, students should stay in touch with the Townies. They should engage in the “real world.” A quick jaunt through the archives details advocacy against townie establishments they found problematic, activity in local politics on non-national issues, not just to join country-wide initiatives and protests against rising local rents. Lila Locksley ’78 argued that Wellesley was plagued by “polite society” and comparably quieter than surrounding schools in their efforts.
This is not to belittle the efforts activists have made on college-local issues. There are important issues at Wellesley College that require dedicated student leaders to organize, protest and engage with them. Personally I’ve worked in conjunction with many of these efforts – the climate march, housing crisis, privacy concerns, protest regulations, and more – and found they can be fantastically effective. Still, how much does the average, politically-engaged Wellesley student know about the Boston Metro? Or even the Town, currently, and some of the issues at hand? How much does Wellesley College know about the town they shop at, eat in and walk around?
Let’s try and catch up to speed.
The Wellesley School Committee is trying to cut down a forest at Upham Elementary School. There’s a town-wide argument about school redistricting, school demolition and how the process may be targeting poorer kids for farther commutes. This is all embroiled in a larger discussion about whether small, neighborhood schools are even good for Wellesley, as people think the school board has not done their due diligence in running ecological, financial, educational or traffic analyses.
There’s a town-wide flea market once a year that could really supplement dorm sustainability efforts. The dump is a Wellelsey water cooler for gossip, and at the same time a great place to practice the “reuse” part of the recycling motto.
The Number 8 MWRTA bus will pick you up at Alumnae Hall, drive you to the mall, and then the Green Line, but there are major concerns for accessibility, punctuality and cost. To address this, Administrator Ed Carr is thinking of adding Sunday routes, as well as letting the public name a new route from Framingham to Newton.
For pedestrians, there’s a series of railways they turned into cross-town walking paths and another that serves as an ecological watershed near the Wellesley Hills stop. They start over by the golf course and will take you all the way to the Green Line.
So again, I ask: Wellelsey, why don’t we engage with Wellesley as a whole anymore? When did it become Students vs. Townies rather than getting to know our neighbors and being active in their concerns? When did the city get so far away, and when did we stop trying to bring the rest of the world back to campus? Do we somehow think that the town no longer affects us, or that we can’t make a difference? We need to reestablish our local voice. We used to have a strong one, with less resources and less administrative support.
Let’s do it again.