Safety is the greatest concern of every Junior Advisor (JA) and administrator on campus. It is impossible to balance the stress, workload and extracurricular demands at the College if safety becomes an additional concern. There is never an acceptable reason for why a student should feel unsafe on this campus.
President Falk’s first e-mail about the incident last weekend was so demoralizing because it seemed to mock all of the horrors and realities this campus was confronted with just one year ago. The College is far from perfect, but the hate crime in Prospect united the campus in a conscious effort to make this campus more tolerant and accepting. These abstract ideas can only become a reality when every student buys in and accepts diversity of background and experience as an essential and vital part of the Williams experience. More than tolerance, we need to work together and act as a united campus to ensure that the safety the College provides does not extend to racist threats. The recent event in Mission scoffed at the tears shed at last year’s open mic event in Paresky and threatened the bond the entire campus formed that Nov. 12 morning on Chapin Lawn.
Every first-year listens to panel members share their experiences at this school and finish by repeating the resounding and memorable title of the event, “I Am Williams.” Students leave with heavy hearts, but optimistic that their unique experience is one that is important to the school and that they are all connected. These hate crimes are now as much a part of the Williams narrative as every uplifting story about overcoming preconceived notions or leaving a bigoted high school to arrive at a more accepting college. These threatening and bigoted words are now part of every single person’s experience at the College. We need to accept that hate and racism are parts of Williams right now, and it is up to our community to ensure that the College changes.
This school needs to prove that it deserves all of the praise it receives. The strongest asset Williams has lies in its personnel. Its students, faculty and staff truly are unparalleled. This tremendous collective needs to find a way to confront our problems head on. I hope the first-years that both started and reacted to the hate inscribed on a whiteboard last Friday realize how serious it is when anyone on our campus is threatened. The words from the President and deans of the College cannot fall on deaf ears. The entry system is in place strictly to introduce and foster the culture and vision shared by the rest of the school. Though some people do not feel directly effected by the hate, everyone should despise its presence on our campus and want to do everything possible to banish it.
This school does not exist independently of its students’ experiences, and the culture here will always reflect what matters to the students. Only the students can rise above ignorance and hate, and this really has to be done together. As long as one person feels comfortable threatening other students on campus, then this community is not creating a space true to its vision. As clichéd as it sounds, we need to fully acknowledge our unpleasant present and the evils of the past to move forward. I am not calling for an increase in the Exploring Diversity Initiative requirements or administrative action, but rather a conscious effort of the student body to confront who we are as a school and then figure out how to improve it. When people have the tools to confront hate crimes and discuss how abhorrent this reality is, we will be able to effectively shift from dialogue to action in creating a community that will be truly unmatched in terms of its tolerance, respect and caring.
We are talented, and we are resilient. But we are still perpetuating hate, so I hope that we are changing. We are certainly capable. I am Williams, so are nearly 2200 others, and I hope we always work to create a community of which everyone can be proud.
Marty Clarke ’14 is a math major from Greenwich, Conn. He lives in Sage.