By Anjali Benjamin-Webb '18
I recently gave a speech at Wellesley’s Town Hall on “Inclusive Excellence.” My demands seemed to resonate with many, but were likely only heard by those of us who need institutional change the most. As much as we have the right to be disillusioned by our existence in this grand system of inequality, we also have a great responsibility to demand the undoing of this institution. If not for ourselves, for the many that will come after us.
Given that institutions like Wellesley are built on the backs of our labor—be it physical, emotional, or representational—there must be a categorical undoing of the very foundations on which they are built. Rather than this undoing being a product of our labor, let it be the result of our demands.
If the current policy is meant to reinforce the inequitable underpinnings of this institution, let us demand a new policy that is incompatible with the rotten foundation that sits beneath it. If the administration expresses a desire to hear our concerns, let us demand that they listen. If public image is what moves mountains, let us, the demanding ones, be on top so that those below will clearly see the problems around them. If “womanhood” is the bedrock of this institution’s individuality, let us demand that it be broadened to encompass each of our individual relationships to it.
Although more immediate demands will not change the core of this institution, they will immediately impact the lives of the students in these spaces. While policy and public image are performative, they address our current needs in a language that institutions understand. And though most times it feels superficial, at least after demanding change we will leave a little more whole when we graduate, armed with knowledge and ready to dismantle institutions on a larger scale.
I take to this work because I owe a great debt of gratitude to every student and faculty member who stood up for my spirit when I could not stand on my own. Rather than constantly laboring for Wellesley, we must demand that it labors for us. And if you are too tired, or your spirits too worn to do so, just know that so many of us will be here standing up for you.
Editor’s note: Anjali composed a list of demands, presented at the Town Hall, that outlined concrete institutional changes Wellesley can make to be more inclusive.
Students of color need faculty of color who require actionable institutional support for contributing labor that their white counterparts will never have to.
Title IX is not enough. Wellesley must create a companion policy to effectively discipline faculty, especially those who are tenured, for discrimination in all of its forms. Let’s be real, those in positions of power will only learn when their wallets and their egos are threatened.
Acting out of fear of wealthy alum with antiquated views will only isolate your future base of supporters: choose us.
Check in with us, provide us with competent healthcare and counseling services.
Provide further oversight when it comes to projects not funded by the college that work to invalidate our many experiences, and yes, I’m talking about the Freedom Project.
We need inclusive curriculum. Make our histories accessible in 100 level classes, and not as a caveat, but as a real and necessary dimension of our collective experience.
Stop forming committees and start enacting policy. Allowing good intention to fall victim to red tape and the numerous hoops set up by institutions to quiet urgent needs does not help our cause.
See your minority retention issue in the sciences: we are disproportionately weeded out of your prized departments due to professors teaching to those who have had the privilege to access advanced information before us. Rethink the QR Assessment.
Reframe Withdrawal/Leave of absence/Incomplete etc. policies. They often are what make or break our success.
Transparency! Be transparent about all available options that we have during our time here, and about the intentions of the college as a whole.
From March 2018 issue