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 ’21 — Campus Culture

TW: Description of sexual assault

This story is an absolute roller coaster of ways W&L’s culture has failed me and people like me. During my Admitted Students’ Day, I was with a current student who I trusted and was dating at the time. He was on Adderall to study that day, though it had not been prescribed to him. While I was in his room, he pinned me down and started doing things to me I told him were not okay. Instead of listening to me when I told him to stop, he flipped me over and I had to fight him off me

He told me his behavior was out of character and only happened because of the drugs he was on. I never reported because my status as someone who hadn’t started at W&L stressed me out, and before I had even begun classes I was worried about my reputation.

I thought about reporting an Honor Violation for his unprescribed use of a drug, knowing that the University may have taken it more seriously, but by the time I had become a student able to report these things, several months had passed. 

I asked a friend to be on the lookout for him at parties in case he tried to confront me (when I removed him as a follower from my finsta account, he gaslighted and threatened me, so I was afraid of what would happen if I saw him in person). Most of my friends don’t know that this ever happened, because this young man was not especially popular and I was worried that people might not like me if my first move on campus was to accuse someone of assault (though I know that the people who are my friends would never treat me this way, I don’t feel that way about the student body at large).

During our relationship, this individual would repeatedly compare my body to his Black ex-girlfriend’s in an explicitly racist way, saying that my whiteness made me more appealing to him for several reasons so nauseating I won’t repeat them. Because of his overall behavior around me, I was so afraid to ever speak up about these horrible things he said and did. It scares me even more now, because he was accepted into a PhD program and can continue to use his influence to be blatantly racist and misogynistic, even if only behind closed doors. I’ve been having nightmares recently about him and how the culture at our university allows people like him to be successful.