ROCKET: What is your response to the celebration for the 100 years of women?
Camryn Easley: Personally, I love women; I think they’re great. It is definitely inspiring to see all of the new pictures, banners and signs hanging up all around campus with pictures of influential women at William & Mary over the years. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that the school is really showing out this year with all of the events, guest speakers and programs celebrating the presence of women at the College; I just wonder where this enthusiasm was last year when it was the 50th anniversary of Black students in residence? Where were the banners and wall decorations with pictures of Black students at W&M? There were a couple of events, a comment here and there and a commissioned art piece that hangs proudly in the least visited area of Swem… all I’m saying is, if we as a “tribe” are committed to celebrating these anniversaries, we need to keep the same energy.
R: What still needs to change in the way William & Mary prioritizes/supports women, especially WOC?
CE: I think William & Mary does a poor job of understanding the importance of intersectionality and it has been especially noticeable this year. It is true that there were Black women at the College 100 years ago; they just happened to be the people who were serving and keeping this school running for those first white women to get their education. I’m waiting on an explicit statement from the school that acknowledges this history and the fact that this anniversary year is really only relevant to white women.
R: What measures can William & Mary take to make campus a more inclusive community for POC, especially WOC?
CE: I think a lack of education is the most important issue. William & Mary could do a better job of making the concerns of POC a priority. Intersectionality has always been an issue here; I have met several people who do not know what QTPOC stands for. Progress has been made with the Task Force on Race and Relations and list of demands from the Black Lives Matter group, but there are hundreds of micro-aggressions, prejudiced statements and instances of discrimination that go unrecognized every day. I can personally think of several times when I have felt marginalized in a class of eight, out of place in my own dorm and unheard when talking directly to my professor. I can also think of several instances where people have acknowledged my discomfort and explained that their words came from a place of ignorance instead of malice. I think the “ignorance” claim is valid, but it also raises several questions: What are we saying to students when we allow them to graduate without ever taking a class that questioned their privileged perspective? What steps have we taken to make sure that every professor and administrator can respond appropriately to instances of prejudice in the classroom? What steps have we taken to make sure that they themselves are not the ones making the classroom a hostile environment? What message are you sending me when you say that you don’t believe that I am a student representative to the Board of Visitors? What measures are each of us, individually, taking to make sure that the POC we know do not feel marginalized by ourselves?
R: What are some things you do on campus that you think make the environment a more inclusive one?
CE: As Undersecretary of Multicultural Affairs for Student Assembly, I am committed to doing what I can to make sure that POC on campus are able to have events, resources and support systems that are geared specifically towards us and address the multiplicities of our identities. Although not limited to POC, Underground @ WM is a good example of one of those resources because the publication serves as a creative outlet dedicated to providing space for typically marginalized voices to tell their stories and be heard. I am excited to have been a part of the executive team this semester and am even more excited to launch our Fall 2018 issue!
R: Who is someone on campus you look up to, and why? What do they do that you think deserves commending?
CE: Judith Hand. I admit I was not excited to have class for three hours on Wednesdays, especially during my first semester of freshman year, but registering for that class was probably the best decision I could have made. “Memoirs of Privilege and Inequality” taught me so much about our society and consequently about myself. I feel like I can really credit lessons from her class as a huge influence on my decision to minor in Sociology and also to live as my authentic self from day one. All of my friends know I am THE #1 Hand Stan, so it is my responsibility to promote her classes until the day I die. I really hope she sees this and in case she does, thank you Judith for everything!