ROCKET: What is your response to the celebration for the 100 years of women?
Roselyn Buensuceso: Not all women can share in this milestone. The campaign is marketed through diverse women of color at W&M – yet not all of them feel that they can celebrate this moment. The first known Asian American woman student, Hatsuye Yamasaki, wasn’t admitted to the College until 1933; last year, we just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first admitted Black woman students. We all know that when the institution distinguishes “women,” they really mean white women…but their advertising says otherwise. If you want to commemorate this year, specify 100 years of white women. I encourage the school to celebrate these milestones, but I challenge them to acknowledge and center women of color.
R: What measures can William & Mary take to make campus a more inclusive community for POC, especially WOC?
RB: I believe that majority-white organizations receive more funding and priority than cultural organizations/organizations that are majority-POC. The first step to help rectify this should be to provide more funding to these organizations. Furthermore, our new President has a background in inclusion and diversity, so I hope she takes strides prioritizing inclusion for the student body.
On a separate note, representation is so important! I didn’t have a WOC professor until my junior year. I remember sitting in class a month into the semester, and the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. It took THREE years for me to take a class taught by a woman of color. It is crucial for a PWI like William & Mary to hire more diverse faculty, because it is empowering and motivating to see someone who looks like me/shares my background in a position of power. And also because I’m tired of all the courses being taught by old white men.
R: What are some things you do on campus that you think make the environment a more inclusive one?
RB: I’m an APIA (Asian & Pacific Islander American Studies) double major. It isn’t an officially recognized major yet, so this department has given me invaluable experience in advocacy and activism – especially in pushing administration to officially recognize Asian-American initiatives. I’ve also learned the importance of studying race relations and how that ties into the bloody history behind this institution.
I am one of the co-Culture Night Chairs for FASA (Filipino American Student Association), which includes writing/directing/producing our annual showcase – FASA’s biggest event of the year that gives the W&M community a peek into themes about the Filipino American experience. This organization has allowed me to share a large part of my identity to my peers (many of which have told me that I’m their “first” Filipino friend).
I am an Orientation Aide and a member of HOPE (Health Outreach Peer Educators). Both of these organizations are majority-white, and I often times find myself one of the few women of color in the room. Since both of these roles are leadership/mentor positions for other students, I try to make myself visible as a resource to students of color.
R: Any additional thoughts/comments you want us to know?
RB: When I used to work at Phonathon, I called an alumna who went to W&M in the 1970s. She told me how men and women had various different rules during her time here. For instance, woman students had a curfew and weren’t even allowed to stay at the library past a certain time. So even though this school became co-educational 100 years ago, they obviously did not treat their students fairly for quite some time.