By Jennifer Ives
On Monday, April 11, at precisely noon, over 150 Simmons undergraduate and graduate students staged a walk-out and rally in protest to trans-exclusionary language used by President Helen Drinan in recent letters, as well as to the current non-inclusive environment at Simmons.
It was planned and executed by students concerned about the lack of receptiveness by administration and the board to complaints about inconsistencies in advertising materials, published admissions policies, and lack of repercussions for students and faculties who enact transphobic or exclusionary language and actions. President Helen Drinan was present, having been invited by the protesters to come and listen to the concerns and demands that students had.
Student organizers took turns reading the 11 demands aloud in the middle of Common Grounds, using one of two microphones present. After the speakers finished the floor was opened up for students to speak on their thoughts and experiences regarding the inclusion or lack thereof of trans and non-binary individuals on campus, particularly queer people of color.
Contributors shared many of the different perspectives and experiences they had, emphasizing the impact of exclusionary practices on faculty as well as students, the unique intersectional problems faced by queer people of color, and the role that being a potential safe space played in choosing Simmons as their school of choice. Students exercised spoken words style finger snaps to indicate agreement and support with speakers without interrupting them, indicating strong agreement and shared sentiment for much of what was said.
The walkout and speakout rally was almost two weeks in the making. Organizers held multiple action planning and open discussion meetings to compile a list of problems and demands as well as coordinate actions. The walkout was originally scheduled for Tuesday, April 4, with the speak out to be held the next day. The events were combined and delayed for a week in order to allow organizers more time to coordinate actions and ensure a unified goals and messages.
The extended collaborative planning by organizers allowed them to flawlessly pull off an impressive walkout and speak out, with a significant number of students and faculty in attendance, as well as administrative personnel.
The 11 statements of policy cover a variety of action items, including the expansion of gender neutral bathrooms; The use of preferred names on all non legal identification, the creation of a more effective and inclusive reporting system for acts of discrimination and micro aggression, and clarification of the admissions policy among others. The policies were collaboratively created during a series of community meetings leading up to the walkout. A full copy of the action policy will be available at http://www.SimmonsVoice.com.