Thanks to Rosa Lafer-Sousa ‘09 (@RozFranklin51) for this month’s pick!
(left to right: Marg Garascia ‘09, Liz Good ‘09, and Eloesa McSorely ‘06)
This past month Elizabeth Good ’09 set two ambitious goals: 1. Raise $5,000 for the South Boston Neighborhood House. 2. Finish the 2013 Boston Marathon. After meeting her first goal(!), Liz lined up with thousands of beaming marathoners in Hopkinton and hit the ground running. Meanwhile, I drove out to mile 18 with Julia Kean ‘08, Marg Garascia ‘09, Eloesa McSorely ‘06, and a cooler full of beer and snacks to cheer her on. For everyone, the Boston Marathon is always a deeply inspirational event and a joyful celebration. But for Wellesley alumna, the marathon holds an extra-special place in our hearts. So I was particularly proud this year to be holding a sign for our very own Liz Good (with a hand a drawn Wellesley ‘W’ in the corner).
Just minutes after jogging alongside Liz somewhere near mile 18 of the Boston marathon (to the tune of an impromptu acapella rendition of America the Beautiful by Marg Garascia ‘09 and Eloesa McSorley ‘06), the bombs at the finish line went off and pretty soon police cars were zipping down the marathon route. I was instantly relieved to know that Liz was okay, though only a few miles from the finish line. But my heart was still lodged halfway up my throat as I thought of the folks who awaited her at the finish line—her parents in the grandstands, directly across the street from the first bomb; her Wellesley brothers and sisters who had followed her all day, from Hopkinton, to Wellesley, and now to the finish line; and the nameless supporters who had come out to cheer on all the marathoners, not just the elite runners. After hours of phone calls, texts, and social media updates, we knew that our most beloved were safe and sound, albeit emotionally rocked.
But what inspired me most was that, when the dust and the smoke settled, Liz, without hesitation, committed to running again, to finishing.
So proud, so inspired,
p.s The outpouring from Wellesley alumna across the globe was a tremendous reminder of the community we have.
p.p.s this story also goes out to Hillary Chu, and any other young alums who ran the marathon!! Very proud of my sisters who did something I could never even try to wrap my head around!
Many of us here at WU are class of ‘08 and some of us are kind of excited about this thing called REUNION! So if you haven’t done so already, can you please register so we can all hang!
WU Staff from ‘08
I first heard that a form of hate speech against Muslim students at Wellesley had occurred As a Muslim Wellesley alumnus, my anger, frustration and urge to speak out immediately rushed through me. As an American who grew up feeling victimized in the aftermath of the hate expressed against Muslims and any deemed as ‘exotic/foreign other’ in the nation’s discourse after 9/11, I felt paralyzed. In the past, I might have sat down and shut up while the events played themselves out naturally. In the face of the hate now, I refuse to be quiet any longer. I refuse to allow this discourse to only affect Muslim students on campus. I refuse to allow Wellesley to tacitly allow hateful speech, intolerance, racism and to color any student’s experience, regardless of their background.
The need for a respectful, open discourse on differences, power and an accepting environment must be recognized, and this instance of hate only serves to underscore it.
The initial tweet occurred on Saturday, one that fed in to the general, uninformed discourse that promotes hate against a group of people due to the identification of the bombers as being Muslim.
One thing differed, however, and that was that the person behind the tweet was a Wellesley student, and a senior, at that.
Accompanied by the tweet was an earlier blog post, iterating 10 signs of going to a college ‘rife with liberal pestilence’. Of all the points, the tenth stands to be related to the tweet. The student had felt this way for a while, and it was only when her tweet was made (publicly) that people began connecting the dots.
In response, College Government’s Multicultural Affairs released a statement both condemning the attacks as a tragedy and acknowledging the effects of hate speech, while discussing the need for solidarity and pushback against intolerance. The MAC did so in spite of initial pushback by some students on campus as it being a case of freedom of speech. A section is included below.
… I cannot express in words what it means for me as a Muslim to see people so determined and committed to making people aware of xenophobia and Islamophobia and that they not only are not okay, but that Wellesley is better than them. As a Wellesley student, I see this allyship happen against homophobia, racism, sexism, and so many other negative reactions to happenings. As a MAC, this allyship just confirms to me how amazing Wellesley siblings are at standing up and saying something in the face of anything that threatens the safety and respect of our community.
At Wellesley, there have previously been instances of hate speech and we need to be prepared to address any that occur now and in the coming days. The response to these statements has always been with the intention and commitment to making these instances teaching moments not only for individual people, but for the campus community at large. That is why I am reaffirming my commitment to all communities on campus and to making Wellesley as safe an environment as possible for all communities: because a threatening statement or a feeling of insecurity to one of us or to a group of us, however small, is actually a threat to all of our abilities’ to feel safe and to come together in the face of external conflict and issues…
When the student learned that Al-Muslimat, the Muslim Students Association, actually did take offense to this so-called incident of ‘freedom of speech’ and that they were working to file an Honor Code violation, she deactivated her social media and wrote them personally an apology, one that could frankly be seen as half-assed, to say the least.
Hello there Al-Muslimat,
This is [name removed]. I am writing to apologize to you about the immature, inflammatory nature of a tweet I sent out the other day. The tweet was written hastily and carelessly. No one should be proud to be prejudice. I have a hard time dealing with Wellesley’s culture, so sometimes I lash out. I want to be the type of person who thinks for herself and draws her own conclusions. But prejudice is not the way to do this. Please email me if you have any more concerns or would like to talk to me more about my political beliefs.
To further underscore my point, she went ahead and blogged about the tweet making her infamous for speaking ‘the uncomfortable truth’.
There is no excuse for speech found to be hateful against a group of people.
In moving forward, a few things need to be considered and discussed. Why was this instance initially pushed aside as a ‘matter of free speech’? Must the only students to feel the pain of this occurrence be Muslim? Ultimately, what are constructive steps that Wellesley College can take in moving towards not only a more respectful and open discourse, but in also instilling a socially conscious and less indiscriminate mindset in its students?
I am tired of having to explain to individuals why their hateful speech against the Islamic faith is nothing more than hate, an expression of which is furthest from freedom. Having opposing opinions on the gun control debate can be recognized as freedom of speech. Expressing intolerant beliefs on a faith or group of people cannot be recognized as such. To fall back on this weak excuse, for example, is not allowed if we were to replace the word ‘Muslims’ with ‘African Americans’ or ‘gay students’. Intolerance is intolerance, across the board. As a college focused on instilling power and self-acceptance within its students, we cannot allow for hate of any kind to be passed off as anything more than it is: hate.
An event like this affects more than the Muslim students on campus. It affects any self-respecting, forward-thinking Wellesley woman, because an event like this has, in effect, marginalized, devalued and pushed aside a group of students who identify with the Muslim faith.
As a college priding itself on educating strong Wellesley siblings, we cannot sit idle any longer. It is certainly telling that even with the current multicultural requirement set in place, a senior felt it within her current mindset and place to publicly instigate feelings of hate towards Muslim students on and off campus. Short of anything, this only serves to underscore the dire need for a strengthened, affirmative multicultural requirement, focusing not simply on fluffy topics akin somewhat to Disney’s ‘It’s a Small World After All’. Students must be given the chance, during those four incredibly short years, to be presented with concrete and pressing issues of race, minority struggles, othering and power.
Wellesley College purports to instill in its students the power to WILL. It’s telling when it instills in only some of its students the power to will, while they marginalize and disallow other students to be nothing more than others on campus. Wellesley, I call upon you to make a difference in the world, by instilling the passion for open discourse and true diversity acceptance within your own students. Make a difference. Take a stand.
To: The Wellesley College Community
From: H. Kim Bottomly
Subject: A Statement of Support
Date: April 24, 2013
Since the Boston Marathon tragedy last week, statements against Muslims have begun to appear on public forums and in the media.
All members of our community should resist the impulse to stereotype or make unsupportable generalizations of any group. Such actions have no place in an academic environment. Expressions of group hatred diminish our community, damaging the sense of trust and mutual support that characterize Wellesley.
As I said at Senate on Monday, what makes our community so special and strong is our commitment to supporting one another. Maintaining such a supportive community is an ongoing effort that takes continual work and vigilance. We take pride in our multifaith, multicultural, and diverse community. In times like these, it is especially important to embrace this diversity in order to have a thoughtful, constructive, and respectful dialogue—that is the hallmark of the Wellesley community.
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Last Sunday, I attended a prospective students event for my alma mater, Wellesley College. I always look forward to meeting the newly accepted students from the Chicagoland area. I remember what an exciting but anxious time this was for me back in the day, so I’m always happy to answer their questions and share what my experience was like at Wellesley.
Well, I barely walked through the door before a proud, amiable Pops (father) of a prospective student introduced himself to me. He asked if I enjoyed my experience at Wellesley, and I told him that I had very much. He then pointed in the direction of his daughter and proudly said, “That’s my daughter. She’s been accepted to Wellesley. Make sure you speak to her.” I smiled and congratulated him, and said I looked forward to introducing myself to her. Then the conversation took an interesting turn. “Wellesley is a great school, Pops said. “My wife and I are excited about her going there, but I’m concerned about the all-women’s environment, especially with the push for marriage equality and everything. I’m nervous and don’t want her pressured into anything. What do you think?” I politely asked him to clarify what he was truly asking me. He said he was nervous about the push for gay rights and the permissive culture in the country towards gays and lesbians and how this would play out at Wellesley. In other words, he didn’t want his daughter to become a “lesbo,” because you know that’s what happens to all women who attend women’s colleges, right?!
I must admit that I found this conversation amusing for a couple reasons. First, of all the people in the room that Pops could have raised this issue with, it would be me- the only lesbian alumna in the room. Second, this scenario made me chuckle because my mom had the same concern about Wellesley. She thought that something in the Seven Sister water would turn me into a full-fledged, unapologetic feminist Sappho. Uhhhh…well…I suppose she was right in my case. I’ve been in situations like this before with people who made similar comments to those of Pops. There were times when I wasn’t bothered by their statements and even engaged the person in dialogue- especially when their comments didn’t appear to be motivated by meanness or disrespect- and other times when I flat out challenged him or her. But I’ve also had moments when diplomacy and being above the fray were not my priority, and I happily and quietly dismissed folks to leave them alone with their thoughts, or lack thereof. In that moment with Proud Pops, however, I gave him a warm smile and told him that, like many colleges, Wellesley has people from different backgrounds and walks of life, including people of different sexual orientations, and that this diversity is one of the things I most cherished about my life and friendships there. “Your daughter will meet lesbian and bisexual women at Wellesley,” I told Pops.” But don’t worry; they’re not recruiting. I think she’ll be just fine.”