In “Is standing necessary?” (Feb. 27) Morgan Philips made an astute observation about the Stand With Us rally: some testimonials did not describe racism or homophobia at Williams specifically. Though I was not involved in organizing the rally and cannot attest to the organizer’s intentions, I found such testimonials a powerful reminder of the prejudice that some members of our community have faced – parts of their background that the rest of our community should be aware of. I came away from those testimonials better informed about my community, thinking. “Hey! Some people come from a different place than I do. Things might affect them differently – maybe I should be more careful about what I say.” I’m sorry that they were not effective for everyone.
Phillips is also right that the Pact, mounted on walls all over campus, is visible to any visitor. It proclaims to anyone that Williams is able to admit that we have a problem, and is determined to do something about it. Why should this embarrass us? Are we so anxious to impress visitors that we are going to hide the issues that are closest to our hearts? What’s the problem with attracting students who will be activists, who want to stand up? What’s the problem with telling minority, LGBTQ, female or disabled prefrosh that the student body is determined to ensure that if they come to Williams, they will be joining “an accepting and affirming community” – not one where they will wake up to walls covered in penises and racist words, and not one where they will be unable to articulate the way that makes them feel for fear of being labeled a “hypochondriac prone to overblown and irrational overreactions.”
It’s fine that people disagree with the Pact – maybe you don’t see hatred and indifference at Williams. But a huge number of your classmates, faculty, and staff members do see them. We are willing to stand and admit we have a problem. We’re not going to ignore the piles of “isolated incidents” that keep some of our community members afraid or in the closet or stuck in Morley Circle. And we challenge everyone to look just a little harder. If you don’t feel the need to stand up, that’s okay. But we’re going to keep standing. If you truly believe that Williams is already an “accepting and affirming community,” then you will not be contemptuous toward our need to do so.
Ariel Heyman ’08