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Student actions determine Wooster’s future

Earlier this semester comedian Mamoudou N’Diaye ’14 was on campus speaking about his Wooster experience. He described his experience at Wooster as buffet-style: dabbling in this and that department, messing around with intramurals, participating in various student groups. He painted a picture of liberal arts as a time to explore and experiment, which got me thinking about my own four years at Wooster and my experiences as a student and activist on this campus.

As I’m leaving Wooster, my advice to underclassmen is to think of your Wooster education not as a buffet but rather as a potluck. What you bring, and what every other member of the community brings, will completely shift not only your Wooster experience but the institution as a whole. Wooster can only reach its potential when we as students participate fully and demand that staff are paid a living wage, that faculty are culturally competent, that our administration takes action on issues of environmental sustainability and that our peers show up. 

During our four years at Wooster we have seen a lot of changes, most of them good. Since our first year, the Living Wage Campaign has gained traction, opening conversations that seemed impossible when we began in 2015. We were there for the first protest outside the Governance Room in 2016 and we showed up again this fall to demand continued work towards living wages on our campus. We were there for the Galpin Call-in last year and saw the hiring of the College’s first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. Lori Makin-Byrd came to campus as the first full-time Title IX coordinator. Within the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the office of Civic and Social Responsibility was created in our junior year. These are just a few examples of strides the College has made during our time.

We’ve seen a lot of progress, but we’ve also seen a good amount of stagnation, and many long-term battles are yet to be won. We still don’t have a Sustainability Coordinator or anyone on campus whose job it is to make Wooster a more environmentally viable place, something all our peer institutions have and that Greenhouse Club has been advocating for since 2014. We haven’t incorporated sustainability into our community priorities and culture, we have no structure for environmental accountability and we sure as hell don’t have a plan for carbon neutrality. The Living Wage Campaign has made strides, but we still don’t pay living wages. And those are just the ongoing campaigns that I’ve been a part of -— there are countless more that demand our time, energy and involvement. 

So to all the underclassmen working for justice on this campus: you’re amazing, keep up the incredible work. You are what makes Wooster wonderful. It is going to be hard, there will be late nights crying about the administration and there are going to be a million roadblocks, but we will get there. To the class of 2019: thank you. It has been an honor to be angry with you. To anyone in the administration, to the Board of Trustees and to people who hold power on this campus: we’re not going anywhere. We all have the choice to either fight together to make our community a just and sustainable place, or to throw up our hands and declare that it’s too hard. I hope you have the courage to stand together in making Wooster the institution I know it has the potential to be. 

Mary Kate Norton, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at MNorton19@wooster.edu.

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