WLU ’22 — Sabra

I contacted the school’s administration to express to them how the selling of Sabra hummus in Cafe 77 makes me feel excluded from the W&L community. I explained in my emails and in-person talks with the dean and the EC’s president how Sabra is co-owned by Pepsi Co and the Strauss Group which proudly broadcasts their devotion to a mission that provides support for the Golani brigade, the most notorious brigade in the Israeli army and one that came so close to my own house in tanks and bulldozers the 2014 war and resulted in the killing of my neighbors and friends. 

My own survival everyday in the Gaza Strip is considered a miracle. My request of the school was nothing but to be neutral in the face of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and did not even ask them for any act of justice towards my people.

I explained how Sabra hummus is obviously not the only snack the school could provide. Yet, my request was faced with the “solution” of providing another option, Hope Hummus “alongside” Sabra. This, to me, was a spit in the face because none of our food should support apartheid and genocide.

What made it even worse is how the school never made any announcements to explain to the W&L community why this alternative was provided, because a lot of these members would actually never want to purchase Sabra again if they knew what it funds. I realized at that point that I had to do the job of spreading awareness on my own. I made flyers and started tabling in commons and started asking people to sign a petition to replace Sabra.

A friend of mine once texted me telling me that as soon as I left, some guys gathered all the flyers and threw them in the trash. On another incident, a student asked me if I “was allowed to be tabling in the commons”. I’ve never seen anyone else come across people tabling in commons and ask if they had a permission to be tabling. 

Another student came to yell at me and my friend when we were tabling, and associated the topic of me advocating for the human rights of my people in Palestine to my religion, and told me that I actually have to consider why my religion of Islam through the Qur’an tells me “to kill everyone who doesn’t agree with [me]”. Another student picked up a flyer from my friend when he was tabling and put in the trash right in front of him.

At W&L, some members of the community find it too much for someone to suggest helpful changes to the culture, and to ask to feel included.

WLU ’22 — Conflict

TW: Anti-semitic language

Being Jewish at W&L is a unique challenge. As someone who is white and does not wear a kippah, I am not identifiably Jewish when I walk around campus which I recognize allows me a level of privilege that other marginalized students do not experience. 

That being said, antisemitism still exists on our campus. I have had a few small incidences of antisemitism in my two years at W&L, but one in particular stands out the most. I had been hearing rumors about a boycott of Sabra hummus a while back and didn’t think much of it. 

But then I started getting sent pictures of the posters that were displayed on campus. [Image below]

The posters that contained the words “Sabra Hummus is mixed with the blood of the Palestinians.” The posters continued to make the unsupported claim that Israel is committing genocide and apartheid. 

Whether or not the student knew or intended it, these posters contain blood libel, one of the most insidious and hateful forms of antisemitism that has existed throughout history and still exists today. 

Blood libel is the accusation that Jews kill people (in the origin of blood libel, this was Christians) and then use the blood of their victims in baking matzah (an unleavened bread eaten by Jews on Passover) and then eat it.

I didn’t know what to think after seeing these posters. I felt so confused and upset.

I felt unsafe on our campus as a Jewish person who supports the existence and survival of the only Jewish State in the world. After the Tree of Life shooting happened, the W&L and Rockbridge County community rallied around their Jewish neighbors. How could this be happening? 

Although the posters were taken down at the direction of OIE and Public Safety, the student responsible for creating the posters has not been held accountable. It seems as though we’re all in favor of condemning and taking action against Nazis and white supremacists who hate Jews, but overt antisemitism coming from other outlets is not condemned by non-Jewish students and administrators.

It’s taken a while for the Israel/Palestine conflict to become a contentious topic that is talked about on our campus. 

I believe that there are many productive conversations to be had surrounding the issue. 

What I don’t find productive is starting the conversation with blood libel, antisemitism, and accusations of genocide and apartheid. It’s important that everyone who wishes to participate educate themselves about the conflict from many sides and then come to conclusions based on facts and history. 

It’s a complex issue with no easy solutions and it’s important that we remember that. I have faith in the W&L community that we can elevate this conversation to one that makes us all feel included and welcome on our campus.

WLU ’23 — “Jokes”

It’s been so upsetting to see the normalization of Anti-Semitism in America as a whole and even in my life. 

Last year at school, a friend came into my dorm room and was showing me some videos. I could tell they were supposed to be comical, although completely missing the mark, but one of them was strictly about Jewish people. I was surprised that my friend thought the “jokes” were funny, especially because the video clearly made fun of harsh stereotypes including noses. My friend is a great person, and I don’t think anything harmful was meant by it, but my nose has always been my biggest insecurity.

My mom has asked me if I have ever been made fun of for my last name (my Great Grandfather was Jewish and the reason why my last name is such).

Thankfully I have not. It’s sad, though, because I catch myself hesitating to sign my last name on return addresses for fear that my packages or letters won’t be delivered, and I often wonder if we even get all our mail.

WLU ’21 — Deeply Rooted

TW: Racist & homophobic slurs 

I came to W&L a proud Jew from an upper middle class family in North New Jersey. Many folks, including my high school college advisor, tried to talk me out of attending W&L and remaining in the Northeast for college. I was warned that while many students from the tri-state area attended W&L each year, Jewish, Asian, and Black students had always had a very difficult time assimilating to the white, southern culture that still pervades our campus and sets the tone for most of W&L’s student culture. 

I was not worried. I had attended a diverse private school with all sorts of kids from all walks of life. My friend group in high school was a mixed bag of friends which spanned the socio-economic spectrum. How bad could it be?

Unfortunately, the warnings from my advisor, friends and family were all spot-on. The vast majority of Admissions mailings and website photos I was bombarded with as a high school junior attempted to frame W&L as a diverse, open-minded place. These were all nothing more than propaganda, no doubt part of the school’s Strategic Plan to bring in more minority kids to the school. The admissions tour and information sessions were equally transparent and offensive to many listening to the Admissions tour guide and Admissions Rep that chilly spring morning.    

I should have listened to the warnings. Not even a week on campus, racist quotes were scrawled across the bathroom mirror and stalls in my Graham-Lees dorm. “Diversity is white genocide” read one of the scrawlings. 

This “greeting” remained on our stall door for weeks before it was finally removed – just before Parent’s Weekend. “Mazal Tov” (sic),  “Big Nigga”  and “Fag” (amongst others) would also find their way on to the walls of our bathroom that fall, yet no one seemed to really care. Rampant drinking and heavy use of drugs were also a big problem on our floor with some students and took up a good amount of our RA’s time.

My experiences around W&L’s fraternity rush which begins during the Winter Term were equally disappointing and laden with racist overtones and dog whistles. There is a social hierarchy within the men’s fraternal system where the “top houses” are almost devoid of any minority representation. One night, during a study session, I was advised by one of my classmates to avoid rushing certain “Southern” or “Tier 1” houses because of their lack of tolerance for “diverse” northerners. 

I pressed on this statement and was told that there are certain “good ole boy” houses at W&L that do not take Jewish, Black, or Asian pledges. I was told we had our place, and it was not around the students or in these houses. I wanted to see for myself if this was in fact the case, so I attended several rush parties for “Tier 1” fraternities. Most of the brothers appeared nice, but were quick to shuffle you through the house to meet a group of younger members, who I noticed were only talking to north-easterners like myself and who were holding a RED Solo cups. As it turned out, this frat used color-coded cups to identify “worthy” prospects. In the other room were prospective students holding BLUE Solo cups. All of these students were white and predominantly from the Southeast. They were being rushed by a larger group of brothers, many of whom were officers in the fraternity. What I experienced that day was later confirmed by an upperclassman international student that I had met. 

He mentioned that these houses were off limits to folks like us and also mentioned that W&L still has several secret societies (i.e., Cadaver Society aka C. Corp to its members) which draw most of their members from these “elite tier” frats.   

At the conclusion of the winter rush season, bids were given out and wild parties occurred at most of the frat houses. Two of the southern guys on my hall rushed the top tier, predominantly southern fraternity and were both completely lit when they returned back to the dorm to change clothes. All of a sudden, they thrust my door open and presented me with a blue yarmulke with a W&L trident sewn to the cap. The two were dancing  drunk (and who knows what else) with these caps on their heads. They said that they had just broken into the W&L’s Jewish Student Center, the Hillel House, and taken the caps. They ended up parading down the hall with the hats singing Adam Sandler’s Chanukah song. The next morning, I found one of the caps floating in the toilet.

I ended up finding my small niche at W&L. If I had to do it all over again, sadly, I would not have chosen to attend W&L. There are some great profs here, but overall, it has many deep-rooted problems that will not just vanish if the school’s name were to change.

WLU Alumni — Anti-Semitic

Weird anti-Semitic stuff I saw as a student at WLU:

1. Seeing guys chucking coins at their only Jewish fraternity brother

2. Going to a frat party where a Jewish pledge was told to dress in a suit and play the theme from Schindler’s List on violin at the entrance of the party (to be fair, he was very talented, and I watched bc it was more entertaining than drinking Robitussin trashcan juice)

3. Being asked 19th century/Borat crap like “where are your horns?” from people I didn’t really know

4. Christian people trying to go on our Hillel trip to convert Jewish people

5. Hearing fraternity pledges were told they needed to dump their girlfriends because they were Jewish

6. Reading an op-ed in the student newspaper about how unfair it was that the Hillel house was being built faster than the new sorority house (lol wut?)

7. Being told to read Bible verses during sorority initiation (maybe not explicitly anti-Semitic, but certainly not my fave)

8. Overhearing sorority girls complaining about how nice the “Jew house” is when there are so few Jewish students… AT THE HILLEL HOUSE while they were eating bagels from said “Jew house.”

9. “Wow you don’t look Jewish!” “… Thanks?”

WLU ’22 – Vulnerable

I am an international student from Morocco and I know that this small piece of information already clues many of you in to my identity, but I am willing to risk looking vulnerable if it’s going to make some people reflect on their actions and others feel like they’re not alone. Now, more than ever, when the US passes laws saying that we’re not welcome here anymore, our stories need to be heard. 

I was never afraid about going to study in the US. It’s been a dream for me for a while. Very few people back home have the opportunity to study in the USA, let alone in such a great university. I had already lived alone for 2 years in China at the age of 16, so I never thought adapting to the culture would be a big challenge. But it was.

My first semester at W&L was definitely the hardest. I was mocked for not knowing where a couple of random US states were by the same people who had no idea that my country even exists. I was mocked for not properly pronouncing some words even though English is my fourth language. I went back to my room crying so many times after I heard things like “the reason we don’t like Arabs is because here in the US because we value freedom” or “Saudi Arabia and Morocco are the same” or “Muslims and Jews can never get along.” When I complained about how few romantic experiences I’ve had during that time, I was told that I did not fit the W&L beauty standards or that I “intimidated guys.”

Sometimes, I was thankful that people couldn’t guess that I am Arab and African because I knew the stereotypes that people at W&L associated with those identities.

The saddest part is that I came here with a peace scholarship and a completely different perspective of the world that I was so eager to share, but the culture of the school quickly took that motivation and excitement away.

Please, remember that international students come from far, we leave our families and friends at home, but most importantly, we leave our cultures. We put extra efforts in trying to share our cultures with you. But it becomes frustrating when it’s always the same 30 people who come to cultural events (most of whom are POC), with a large portion of the student body not being interested at all in learning about or engaging with us and our cultures.

We see it when you don’t show up and when you don’t show interest. We FEEL it.

WLU ’06 – Silence

I am Jewish and gay- I came out after rush freshman year – I was rushing a fraternity and ended up quitting- the fraternity painted faggot on my door. I told the Dean of freshman who was a good ally and told her I was depressed and was having suicidal thoughts and she recommended I talk to the campus psychologist. I did so and he told me I didn’t belong at W&L and asked me why I had come there in the first place. His suggestion was that I transfer schools immediately. I left his office crying and never went back- I healed myself and ended up enjoying my time at the school on my own terms. I came to learn years later this same psychologist met with numerous women who were raped on campus and coerced their silence in order to “not ruin the boy’s life.”