Our Purple Bubble is not only filled with the most beautiful trees and mountains, but with beautiful people from all over the world. We come from many backgrounds, each bringing our heritage and pieces of home. For first-years, this diversity can be both encouraging and eye-opening. I came to Williams with many hopes and concerns, but I never expected to witness a social movement in my first year here. For those who aren’t familiar with me or my story, my name is Jacquelin Magby. I lived in Williams Hall E.
It all began when I was wrongly accused of calling Security which broke up a party in my common room. After that, whenever there was a party, my white board was vandalized several times each night. The harassment escalated until one morning I woke up to find my board vandalized again and my blue marker stolen. Later, I saw that racial slurs had been graffitied (in blue) on three doors in my entry. The same obscene figures drawn on my white board that morning were also drawn on an entry stairway wall, and the slurs were repeated on the entry’s white board. Although the administration never found the final culprit, the students who had harassed me for the month prior were only given a verbal warning by the administration.
At that time, I was told by the administration to “keep a low profile” until the investigation was completed. Word of the vandalism spread around campus, but no one knew that it was targeted at me. Nonetheless, the response was overwhelming. After several long meetings attended by more than one hundred students and faculty, a campus movement called Stand With Us emerged. A mission statement was composed and written on posters hung across campus proclaiming our commitment to fight against apathy and discrimination of any kind, whether motivated by race, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or economic background. Meetings and rallies were held where students shared their stories and experiences, airing out “the dirty laundry” of Williams’ discrimination. These stories are not uncommon. We want Williams to be an accepting community, a place that not only tolerates but celebrates its diversity and affirms its resistance against ignorance and bigotry. Laundry needs to be aired; stories need to be told. Victims of harassment should not have to face discrimination alone: we will stand with you.
There is now a website called Williams Speaks Up, accessible through WSO, where you can report any incidents that have occurred anonymously. Please, don’t suffer in silence; don’t keep a “low profile.” Report incidents immediately. Finally being able to tell my story was incredibly liberating; you have the same opportunity now.
The official counterpart of Stand With Us, the newly-created Committee on Community Interaction (CCI), met this past week to discuss goals for the year. But sadly, like with many Williams projects, much of the momentum generated last spring has been lost. Last year, people commented that similar incidents happened every year – in 2007, Hitler posters were hung on dorm room doors. This is incredibly disheartening; after the initial outrage, nothing sustainable emerged.
What happened to the Stand With Us mission statements hanging everywhere from Paresky to Hopkins? What happened to the stickers passed out every night? What happened to our passion for change? Must we wait for issues to escalate? I urge Williams to please continue standing with us.
Jacquelin Magby ’11 is from Riverdale, Ill.