Alexander Wallace ’19 has a bachelor’s degree in international relations. He is currently working for the National Science Teachers Association. He also writes about science fiction and fantasy for three different sites, and published his book, an anthology of short stories, in December 2021. Email Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in the article are the author’s own.
To the administration of the College of William and Mary,
I write to you once again with great dismay in regard to your treatment of the student body to which you are stewards. Last year, I conveyed my immense disappointment with your handling of pass/fail policies, and now I must condemn the thinking that seriously, albeit temporarily, jeopardized the housing of six hundred upperclassmen in the coming academic year.
As of writing, there are 6,236 undergraduate students at the College. An oversight that takes offline one of the largest dormitories, denying a tenth of the student body housing in the coming year, strikes me as callous and disregardful of students’ wellbeing. The purpose of this institution, of which we are all stewards, is “to make, found and establish a certain place of universal study,” as outlined by the Charter to which the College is still bound. I would have thought it obvious that eager students who want to partake in that “universal study” would have a mighty hard time doing so when they do not have a roof over their head. You have made the right decision in reneging on that decision and reopening One Tribe Place, but the damage to the trust which the student body has in you will not be easy to reclaim.
The College is an institution that has given this country three presidents and four signatories of the Declaration of Independence, four Supreme Court justices, this state 22 governors and this world a constellation of luminaries. In this, it has much to be proud of. Where, then, is this pride when it comes to the treatment of its students? You feed them prison food in dining halls — I remember feeling that Sadler corned beef “tasted like depression.” You house students in shoddy dormitories and make them study in decaying halls. You have cared not a whit for student health. You have denied them proper mental healthcare. You have denied students deeply necessary accommodations. You have denied them needed leeway as the world is strangled by a global pandemic.
And now you have the gall to deny a tenth of the student body housing in the coming academic year. You tell them to “search for spaces that are suitable to your personal budget,” not even bothering to consider that this could very well put immense strain on the finances of a significant portion of the students on your campus. It makes it appear to many that you do not care about your students as people, only as a source of revenue. In other words, it looks like you do not see them as human beings.
After so many things that guarantee student life have been cut, being restored — like several sports teams or One Tribe Place, for instance — only after massive public outcry, you should know that you come off as moneylenders in a temple of learning, as living embodiments of what Ambrose Bierce called “pickpocket civilization.” To students, it appears that they study at the mercy of Ebenezer Scrooge, with few if any ghosts of Christmas on hand to change his ways. I will likewise stress that caving in to public pressure is not synonymous with, or is read by the public, as sincere feelings of goodwill.
I protest in the strongest terms to the administrators of this august institution to reconsider the thought processes that brought this campus and this student body to such a situation. In the name of common decency, I plead that future policies from the administration start with the consideration that students are, first and foremost, human beings.
Alexander Ramos Wallace, Class of 2019