I’m selling the school to people constantly kind of, through my work with admissions but I’m also critiquing it through all my organizations when I’m putting on rallies and events and installations that critique the school.
Do you run into any problems when you’re trying to sell the school to people when, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “I actually don’t like this aspect of it”?
With that kind of stuff specifically, I try to be as honest as I possibly can. So, for example, with diversity and stuff on campus, if someone asks me about diversity on campus, I’m not going to say like, “Oh it’s so diverse” Because it’s 70-80% white – it’s still predominantly white. That’s not exactly diverse. But then I try to supplement it by saying that we’re working on it. When I am honest and am like, “oh well this is something our college honestly needs to work on,” I can also confidently say, “and this is how we’re working on it because I’m involved in the things that work on these issues.” It’s nice because I do try to give them an honest picture while still also being like, “we’re trying to fix it. We are all actively trying to fix it.”
And do you see it getting fixed? Do you see us in the future being better at certain things?
Yes, and no. I think that it’s definitely reaching student ears, a lot of the things that happen. And certain things are reaching administration ears, but I think there’s still a ways to go. I think things like sexual assault, for example, are really reaching administration ears. But in terms of, once again the diversity aspect, there was just a study that was put out that was like less than one percent of William and Mary’s population is African American men. And so things like that, it’s like, how exactly do you remedy that? How do we start to get this to the ears of admissions? What is the process that’s working? Is it too much legacy? Too many people from Northern Virginia? The fact that we’re in-state? What factors are playing into that? So that’s an issue that’s a little more complex that we have to grapple with first and figure it out before we can go to administration and higher powers with it, in a sense. So I would say that certain issues are getting to the faculty’s ears but there are still so many that aren’t. And there will always be issues that are still kind of left on the sideline, but I think it’s easy to pick these up and incorporate them into your main fight.
Are there one or two things that you’re the most passionate about?
The nice thing is that I also run Amnesty International, our chapter here on campus. And at Amnesty we try to grapple all of these, we kind of do multiple. So I would say that my big one is the over encompassing umbrella of “My Body, My Rights” which takes into account things like access to contraceptives, abortion rights, sexual assault. So that kind of umbrella of bodily autonomy and feeling comfortable in your body, body positivity, as well as having access to medical institutions that allow you to care for your body the way you would like, is very important to me. That’s probably my number one. And then another one that I really care about is overall just the intersectionality of racial issues. I feel like this campus very much displays the idea that you don’t have to tackle one issue at a time. So if you’re talking about LGBTQ rights, you don’t just have to tackle that. You can also tackle race within that. You can be extremely intersectional. The LGBTQ community here, for me, has been really great because it’s never been about just gay rights, or just lesbian rights. It’s super intersectional. It has always been about like, okay, but what about queer black youth? Or what about trans women of color who are being killed on the streets? It has always gone across barriers of class, economic status, race, things like that. So I feel like those two are things that I have become passionate about most recently, especially as I’ve gotten older here.
Was it hard for you as a freshman to find those groups and feel comfortable here?
I feel like I didn’t find them at first. I do really think that my generation – I mean we’re all pretty much in the same generation so I can’t say “my generation” – but my year, I’ve found that a lot of people in my class have really changed the face of a lot of groups on campus, especially the activisty groups. When I first came, I got involved with the admissions office and I got involved with AMP and stuff and I’m still involved with those things but I have gotten involved with stuff that I wasn’t involved with immediately freshman year. So I would say that towards the end of freshman year was when I found groups like Lambda and Vox and Amnesty that, at the time, weren’t super visible around campus. They were doing things but they didn’t stand out to me. And that’s had a complete transition since my freshman year. Every William and Mary student is crazy involved and they just want good things and they really care about the issues that they care about, so they’re going to put all their effort in that and I’ve really seen that with a lot of my friends who lead those organizations and have put so much effort into getting more people to come to them and putting on more events and just becoming more visible around campus. So immediately, probably not. But it’s definitely grown and I’ve definitely found that freshmen and sophomores nowadays that I’ve talked to have found it a lot easier to join these groups and have found them a lot more accessible. They’ve become more visible and well-known around campus.
So are you a senior?
I’m a junior.
Okay so you’ve kind of seen the campus grow. I’m only a sophomore so I’m excited to keep watching it. Are you ready to leave your mark on campus?
When I talk about William and Mary, especially when I try to sell it to people, I always say that it’s definitely the kind of place where no matter what age you are and no matter your year, you can leave your mark on the campus and have an impact. And I think I have made an impact in small ways, and think there’s a lot of ways you can go about leaving an impact. And I think each William and Mary student does it differently. I know a lot of sophomores who literally as freshmen started their own clubs and ran conferences and stuff who have already left their mark somehow only as sophomores – it’s wild. But I feel like I’ve kind of done it in small ways. I feel really confident in the fact that as a tour guide hopefully I leave my mark in a way. I leave people with something. The way I think of leaving my mark is with younger generations and classes of people, so hopefully I’ve done that and hopefully as an interviewer this summer I can kind of leave my mark in that way too and kind of give people a taste of William and Mary and show them what it’s like to be a William and Mary student and how we love it here and really care about it while still being very conscientious and actively working to fix it as well. So that’s the way I hope I’m starting to leave my mark and how people will hopefully remember me once I leave.
Do you think there is a difference between how you see yourself and how other people, or how the college, sees you?
That’s a good question. I think I used to really feel like that when I was a freshman and sophomore. I feel like last year and the year before, I was really active with certain things on campus and I really cared about them but I would go home and with my own friends I would talk about different things and talk about these issues that I wasn’t necessarily dealing with on a public level on campus. And I think that’s definitely changed as I’ve gotten more involved in more activist-focused groups while still maintaining the groups that I have been involved in since I came here. And I think that has kind of merged the issues that I cared about that I really only thought I would be talking about in a private space – not because I was really uncomfortable but just because I feel like I didn’t really know that there was the outlet to talk about these things on a public level. And I guess that goes along with the idea of visibility of the more social-activist groups because, as I’ve seen more of my close friends getting involved with them and leading them, that’s kind of when I’ve realized that the things I’ve been talking to my friends about since freshman year I can now work with on a public level and I can kind of incorporate that into my life as this person who is trying to sell campus and trying to be one of the faces of William and Mary. So that’s been really fun. And as an OA too, I have been in a similar boat where I kind of have to be honest with my freshman about things that are happening while also being like, “It’s not going to completely suck here! It’s actually really fun!” And that’s actually been a lot easier than with tour groups because they’re already here, they’re not going to like move out – they just moved in. So I can be as honest as I want with them. That’s been a really nice experience too because, as the years have gone by and as I’ve been an OA, I’ve only become more honest with my freshmen, in a good way. I feel there are those people who love this school and are the faces of William and Mary in a way but don’t really talk in radical terms; changes are being made, but they don’t necessarily touch on diversity. And so I see that as an issue. At the same time, I’ll hear people say, “I hate this school. William and Mary is awful,” and they’ll say that in the context of talking about what could be changed and I’m not completely in that boat either. I don’t think that’s really the right way to go about it because I think if you’re working so hard to change things, clearly you don’t hate it here, you know what I mean? You have really close friends, you have a community that is working with you to change things. I think people don’t have to say that they hate William and Mary when they say things do need to be changed. I think they should work to change it and still appreciate the time they have here and the opportunities they’ve been given here. So I guess for the people who are like the faces of William and Mary and love it here and talk about how much they love it and try to sell the school, I think there needs to be more honesty with like, “Yeah I do think this could be changed.” And then on the other side of it, with the people who say they hate the school but are still trying to change it, maybe have more acknowledgement of how lucky we are to be here. A meeting of the two. I feel like I’ve struggled and I’ve kind of gone back and forth between the two. We’re not a stagnant university – we’re not going to be the same forever. We’re super old obviously, 323 years, but we’re kind of like an organism. We’re always going to grow and change and things will never be different even within 4 years here. I have an older brother who went here and graduated in 2011 and things are already super different here than when he graduated. Even when I came in 2013, it was already super different from when he and his friends were here. That has also given me the confidence that things will change in the immediate future and we will see change happen here.
Do you have one big change that you hope will be made within the next 5-10 years?
I don’t really have one change. I want to see more of a merging of microcommunities at William and Mary. I feel like, because we’re in certain communities, we can’t really access others. I feel like depending what organizations you’re in and what parts of campus you frequent, a lot of people feel like they don’t have to be or shouldn’t be friends with people in other organizations or in other walks of campus life. Obviously you can’t be friends with everyone. It is definitely not clique-ish in any sense but William and Mary does have a lot of merging of different types of people and everyone is a part of so many different things around campus. Nobody’s really living up to stereotypes, which I really like. But I just think that so many people think, “I’m in Greek life, I’m not necessarily going to put my time into social activism and I’m not necessarily going to do this or that” you know? Or if I’m in the Japanese Cultural Association, you know, I’m not really going to do this or be in this group because I don’t know the people in that group. Especially as time goes on, you feel like you’ll start to join organizations that your friends are in or if you join one organization and you have a friend in this then you’ll be able to join that and stuff and you’ll kind of retain yourself into a certain community and I think that’s good. I think then you should try to branch out to the others but if you say, “no this is my place here and I’m not really going to mess with other parts of the community,” I think that’s the barrier that needs to be crossed, which I do think we actively try to do. I think nowadays, especially through SA, you see a lot more intergroup mingling and you see people reaching out to multiple organizations. That’s the great thing too. You’re always surprised by the communities and you don’t always see them. I’m one of the Charter Day chairs and we have to choose student speakers to read the excerpt from the Charter, and we usually try to get people from all walks of campus life. We talk about different groups on campus who could send a representative and you’re looking for groups and a lot of times we’ll set up a list of organizations that we want people from but then it’s like here are all these other organizations that have literally never been represented before, not even in the past 5 years, so let’s get them to represent campus.