The Wellesley College Democrats (WCD) sent out a Google Form to the student body on Feb. 5 gauging student interest in attending major rallies taking place this semester across the country. In order to participate in these protests, students would have to travel to and from Boston on the Peter Pan shuttle, which can be an expensive commute. This semester, the WCD is addressing what can be a prohibitive cost for some students to pay in order to be politically active.
The purpose of this Google Form was to help the WCD complete its Student Organization Funding Committee (SOFC) application with robust information to justify their proposal to subsidize transportation for students to the following three rallies: General Strike: A Day Without a Woman, which is set for March 8, Tax Day Rally, which will take place on April 15 and March for Science, which will occur on April 22.
The response to the Google Form was substantial, according to the WCD president, Ivana Castro ’18. Using the data collected from the survey, the WCD successfully completed their SOFC application and received the requested funding.
“We had over 125 responses and 54 (43.2% of respondents) of those students expressed interest in attending all three rallies and attending more rallies. SOFC was able to fully fund our transportation and supplies to make signs for the rallies. We intend to make sign-making and attending the protest as an event for our org,” Castro said.
The WCD’s plan to support student transportation to rallies is part of the organization’s mission to serve the Wellesley community by making political activism accessible to all students.
“It is important now more than ever that people continue to be involved with the political process to ensure that all people are represented. This year we have been focusing on equity initiatives such as providing transportation to the polls and rallies because we do not want financial constraints to limit a person’s ability to engage with the political process and community activism. Therefore, we are hoping that this initiative will encourage students to act in solidarity with communities that have been and continue to be marginalized,” Castro stated.
Sarah White ’19 and Shannon Dennehy ’19, the founders of the Facebook Group “Wellesley Marches,” agree that this push towards making protests and rallies available to all students is necessary and important. The group, which has 361 members, allows students who want to take part in political activism to connect with and support each other.
“Often, lower-income students are the people most affected by the issues promoted in the protests and rallies, which makes it all the more unfair that something like transportation costs would bar them from attending,” White said. “One of the reasons Sarah and I started the group was to make rallies and protests more accessible to students. It can be costly going back and forth on the Peter, which I’ve always found frustrating given that on tours, it’s always said that Wellesley has a free shuttle to Boston (which is only true during the week, when fewer students use it),” Dennehy added.
According to SOFC’s Head Bookkeeper, Rose Whitlock ‘18, SOFC’s decision to fund the WCD’s plan is not unprecedented.
“Any SOAC-constituted org can receive SOFC funds to further its organizational purpose and goals. Since we usually have a number of political orgs active at any time, SOFC funds have gone towards political activism in the past,” Whitlock explained.
While some students incorrectly view this allocation of funds towards the subsidization of student transportation as Wellesley College itself making a political statement, Whitlock pointed out that this is not the case.
“I think it’s important to note here that SOFC funds come from the Student Activities Fee, so we can think of Wellesley students through SOFC funds providing the transportation, it’s not really the college or the administration paying for it,” Whitlock noted. As many students are becoming interested in attending the three rallies throughout the semester, Castro and the WCD is working to solidify the details of their plan to fund transportation to Boston.
“Based off our initial interest form, we will limit the capacity for students based off the responses we received. A week before the protest, we will send out RSVP forms so that we can know who is interested in going with our org to these rallies. We will purchase punch passes with the money we received from SOFC. However, since so many students are interested in attending these rallies we plan to reach out to the President’s office and other academic departments,” Castro said.