Wellesley attracts students who are deeply passionate about and readily jump into conversations about issues of race, gender and discrimination. Our eagerness to voice opinions about controversial campus issues distinguishes us as a student body and points out room for improvement to the college community and administration. The dispersed online discussions of many events demonstrates the lack of a common forum to talk about campus issues. Wellesley College needs a systematic method to facilitate community-wide discussion that will yield more direct and effective communication.
When the Davis Museum put up the “Sleepwalker” statue last spring, Wellesley students voiced their opposition to the statue on social media outlets. The debate reached national and international audiences. During last year’s student government elections, an anonymous student opposed Timothy Boatwright ’16, the sole candidate running for Multicultural Affairs Coordinator, through a “Campaign to Abstain” on Facebook. Students responded to the recent debate on Professor Thomas Cushman’s alleged accusations against Professor Charles Bu via Twitter and Facebook. Twitter and email served as means to gather signatures for petitions against Cushman. Students and alums have also been using social media to share their opinions on admissions policies for transgender students in single-sex colleges. On Nov. 9, students used mass email and Facebook posts to engage in a debate about the meaning of Zionism and how Wellesley approaches it, preceeded by a large poster placed in the campus center that invited students to anonmously define Zionism.
These responses have come from many members of the College community and have covered a broad range of issues. However, the community’s responses have been scattered around social media outlets, illustrating that the Wellesley community has not found an appropriate medium through which to mediate arguments and debate directly with one another. Additionally, people often use social media to accuse and invalidate opinions rather than facilitate discussion. Students, faculty, alumni and staff lack an effective way to constructively mediate discussions and allow everyone to express their opinions on campus. We take pride in our campus as a “safe space” but use social media in an uninviting way to hold conversations that should be held face-to-face.
Social media will only continue to grow and shape campus discussions to a greater degree. Wellesley should use this irreversible trend to our advantage and create an online space where members of the community can participate in discussions. Having a set forum for campus-wide discussions would not only incorporate everyone’s voices, but also give a voice to those who would not otherwise speak up about their opinions.
In addition to online spaces, we need to facilitate more conversations in person. Examples of effective face-to-face discussions of campus issues include the open discussion about The New York Times Magazine article “When Women Become Men at Wellesley College” and the discussion about Professor Bu’s article, which was defined as a “safe space for students of Asian descent to share their responses.” Both of these events were successful in bringing members of the campus community together, but were singular events addressing problems that deserve more than one discussion.
In fostering more on campus conversations and providing an online discussion forum, Wellesley can offer students more opportunities for students to voice their opinions constructively. Campus conversations do not have to take away from community
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor majoring in International Relations-Political Science with a minor in History. She is best reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.