WLU ’21 – Promise

I think the worst part of attending W&L is being promised a community and a university that upholds strong values and discovering that that right is not reserved for everyone. 

Now, I’m an independent woman of color, and I couldn’t care less about not being in a Greek organization. I chose to be independent purely out of preference. Its members have made the decision of paying to be in one and what they do is none of my business…until problematic behaviors, manifested within the institution begins to affect the wellbeing of others.

When I write this, I acknowledge that there exists absolutely VILE students in some of these fraternities. Some brandishing Confederate flags even though they’re from Massachusetts and some writing for the Spectator to compensate for their fragile egos.

However, I also acknowledge that there are students who have the BEST intentions, and whose decision to be apart of a toxic institution was simply motivated by peer pressure or pressure to form substantial networks. 

That said, these same “woke” students need to take accountability for the behavior of their problematic sisters and brothers. If these people TRULY care about you as you claim they do, they will respect your comments and be more mindful in the future.

If you are a “good guy” you will let the transgender student into your party, despite several attempts from your brothers to randomly “close the party for close friends.” If you’re really “not racist” you wouldn’t consistently let your fraternity brother throw around the n-word because “he’s just messing around.”

If you’re not homophobic, you would let the lesbian couple make out on the dance floor. After all you tolerate your creepy fraternity brother’s unsolicited attempts to grope his date at a formal. If you’re respect women, you wouldn’t watch your brother get a girl drunk so that he might get “lucky.” 

Start taking accountability. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but if you’re on mistake #5, you have a serious issue to acknowledge. If W&L is really a community, we should all work harder to ensure the comfort of every student on campus—not just for a select few.

WLU ’20 – Disgust

Alumni weekend my sophomore year, I walked into an elevator at Leyburn Library with an older, white man. I said hello to him to be friendly and was greeted with a look of disgust as he did a visual scan of me from head to toe. He responded saying, “I guess they let anyone in now.” 

Since then, I have avoided alumni events.

WLU ’20 – Sweet Sixteen

The class of 2020 had a GroupMe with the 16 Black students at the time. We called ourselves the Sweet Sixteen. That’s how I first met some of my best friends. I grew up in a rural white town so the demographics of W&L never shook me, but the classism did and the racism that came with it did. The last four years have been tiring. I rarely got to be just a student. I constantly sat on committees. I often met with the President and Deans and Provosts to talk about how my friends were sad. I never felt comforted by their tepid efforts. I felt like I had to be kind to them or nice to stay on their good sides, to keep my seat at the table. It’s an icky power dynamic but I did get really skilled at navigating white spaces. 

Many of my white peers simply get to enjoy the privilege of just being a student. Meanwhile, my GPA suffered. My mental health suffered. My friends’ mental health suffered too. 

I lost track of myself.

I’m no stranger to the microagressions. It’s been hard being on a campus with a student body that pretends to care about diversity but won’t show up for Black Poetry Night, or will sleep in during the MLK parade in town. I’ve had performative white friendships. It’s been hard being a Black woman on this campus, feeling at odds in my body, feeling unattractive because of the very white, heteronormative beauty standard. I’ve been asked whether my friends and I go here while in coop with our backpacks on, because we don’t fit the “W&L aesthetic.” It’s odd, this feeling of being both visible and invisible at the same time. I’ve had people comment on how “articulate” I am. 

The classroom has been a battlefield with racist professors who’ve asked me to swallow my blackness, my politics, my self. I’ve pleaded to the administration and to the board of trustees with carefully written lists of requests that often resulted in more committees, more work, more burden placed on me and my friends. 

I’ve spoken out, I’ve written letters, I’ve read poems. And to save myself, at a certain point I chose myself over W&L. It rarely felt like anyone was listening.

Are you listening, now, W&L? 

Are you really listening? 

Can you feel the heat? 

Things have always been burning.

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.”

WLU ’20 – Permit

My partner and I were sitting in our car in the Woods Creek parking lot, pulling up directions to a concert nearby that we bought tickets to. A public safety officer came up to our window and asked why we were parked on W&L property. When we told him that we were students, he refused to believe that we attended W&L. Ignoring the W&L parking permit sticker that was on the car, this officer continued questioning us until I showed him my student ID. I can’t help but think that if we were not POC, we would not have had to defend our status as W&L students. We have a right to be here like everyone else.

WLU ’18 – Reckoning

Being at W&L was like being slowly suffocated by microaggressions and institutionalized racism until you become a shell of yourself. My Freshman year, I was constantly asked if I actually went there. My Sophomore year, I learned that I was not welcome everywhere when I attended a party and a boy behind me had the audacity to comment about why I was at his party. My Junior year, I learned that racism at W&L was not a terminal sin when Dudley refused to expel the men involved in the GroupMe gate. My Senior year, an acquaintance had the nerve to hold a debate at lunch about why white people should use the n-word.

It doesn’t get any better at alumni events. While being at W&L gave me some pretty remarkable opportunities, I always wonder if it was worth it.

All I can say, though, is that this reckoning is long overdue.

WLU ’18 – Fetish

My sophomore year I hooked up with a white guy who during the middle of everything asked, “Does this fulfill some sort of fantasy for you?” When I asked him to clarify what he meant, he said, “You know, like serving your master?”

Whenever I share this story with others, I’m often asked if I left afterward, and each time I lie and say of course I did. But the truth is I didn’t. I felt like I couldn’t leave. Every day I spent on the W&L campus made me feel like a stain, so much so that I started to think that was exactly what I was. 

I felt like, as a black woman, the only way I could be seen as attractive was to fulfill some racist fetish.

WLU ’14 – Spectacle

In my time at W&L, I truly feel that my black classmates were treated as spectacles. I remember certain frat members’ semi-serious accusation that I had “jungle fever” when the man whom I ended up dating among their ranks was the only black pledge. One night, we were in his room when a large black dildo flew the window, accompanied by raucous laughter. I cannot imagine how painful and dehumanizing it is to be reduced to a PornHub search by these so-called brothers, not to mention the flagrant misogyny that has plagued the Greek organizations since their inception. I sincerely hope that things have improved since then, but if current events are any indication, they have not.

WLU ’22 – Discomfort

I thought I found my best friend ever freshman year. Things changed when we were at dinner and she told me I was like an egg, white and yellow, because I’m white and Asian. It was a simple and small remark but it made me feel terrible. Then I said, “hey, I didn’t really appreciate that. I’m just trying to eat and I don’t like my race being compared to a food.” And she began to argue with me saying “why does everything have to be politically correct?” I tried to explain that it wasn’t about being politically correct, it’s about being a good friend because I, her best friend, was expressing discomfort. I asked for an apology so we could get over it and she refused.

This is nothing compared to the crap we see every day on campus. Frats throwing Mexico themed parties, wearing hats and costume serapes because they “have 1 Mexican in the frat!!!” Men wearing MAGA hats to Mock Con which simulated the DEMOCRATIC National Convention because god forbid he gets mistaken for a liberal. Even students getting rejected from parties for being LGBTQ+. Black students being rejected from all the higher tier frats and stuffed in the low tier ones (ones that are run by racists, too). And guess what? Not a single word from the student body about the events since George Floyd. Not even the discourse W&L claims to love. 

From what I have seen here, the only ones on our side are the faculty. Most of the faculty is passionate FOR us and defends us. The other portion tends to be the perpetrators of the racism.

And in my mind, the way the KKK came to campus last year and spread pamphlets about “KKKEEP THE NAME THE SAME” and the way W&L has done nothing about it makes me feel like it has agreed with the KKK. 

W&L: Do better. Change the name. Be actively anti-racist. Standing aside and doing nothing makes you complicit. And students of color–we really, really struggle here. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be Black on campus with all these openly racist, southern, white students around.