WLU ’21 — Biology Professor

In my freshman year Biology class, I went to office hours frequently because I knew I wasn’t doing very well. I’m a humanities major, I’m not dumb, science just wasn’t my thing, and I expected the professor to understand that as this was an introductory class. Most of my classmates were pre-med, though, so I’m sure I stood out as “the bad student.” Either way, he told me multiple times I should consider transferring because I “don’t belong here.”

I failed our first test, so I went to his office hours for clarification. He continued with his previous comments that didn’t explicitly call me stupid, but he heavily implied that I had no place in his class or at the school. I began to tear up, and I apologized, embarrassed. He gave me a tissue and told me not to worry about it, because “I’m used to girls crying in here.”

I could tell he meant it to be a kind gesture, so I said nothing. 

He made me seriously question my intelligence and capabilities, when his job was to educate. I came in for help and was met with sexism and implicit insult, but somehow it felt like it was my fault for being weak and dumb

WLU Transfer — Forgetting

As someone who transferred out after my sophomore year, due to my inability to continue to “grin and bear it” under the weight of the microaggressions, the classism, knowing I was one of FIFTY black students on campus at the time…. as someone who was closeted and didn’t feel the strength to come out until I was an ocean away and knew I wouldn’t be returning to campus in the fall… I have been thinking about writing an email for a while. But something’s been holding me back. 

I think that I’ve tried my hardest to forget what I felt like at W&L. I think that that is how I coped with the trauma I experienced at that institution. Writing a letter, an email, detailing exactly WHY it is so important to change the name—would bring up a lot of feelings and emotions I’ve worked hard to move on from.

I would just like to let you all know that I deeply appreciate the work that you are all doing. Even though I hold a degree from a different university, W&L was/is still my institution. I spent two entire years of my life there. There are days I wish that I had stayed—but I’m not sure I would’ve survived. 

And to everyone who thinks that this is unimportant—it should NOT be the norm that BIPOC students, queer students, low-income students, are under so much ADDITIONAL mental duress that it affects their education. I gave up a full-ride, took on additional student loans, because I couldn’t take it anymore.

So thank you for speaking up, because I’m still trying to find a way to articulate my feelings.