On Wed, Oct. 17, over 50 Wilson alumnae flooded campus to attend the Commission on Shaping the Future of Wilson College meetings. With encouragement from the Facebook group “Wild Wilson Women – Taking on the Cause,” the alumnae came to the meetings with numerous ideas and ways the college can continue to thrive, many made with the hope of helping the college avoid going co-ed.
Throughout the weeks leading up to the meeting, alumnae struggled to understand how and why the college could find itself in a situation where enrollment figures need to be almost doubled in order for it to “survive.” Yet alumnae were under the impression that the college was doing very well. The announcement of the Commission, and the research being done into admitting men as full-time residential students, came as a shock to the alumnae. The day of the meeting, many students found themselves being joined at lunch by alumnae who were all asking, “What is it like here?” as they tried to understand what was going on.
However, it wasn’t such a massive shock to current students who are very aware that the college needs to make changes in order to survive. Ask any current student here what needs fixing or updating, and most can probably list ten different things they see every day that are in need of improvement. As one alum who has spent a large amount of time on campus said, “Wilson is like a lady at a ball – she might have on a beautiful dress, but underneath it her petticoat is held up by safety pins and her pantyhose is full of holes.”
What is truly sad is that the alums received no chance to see the campus the students see every day, or the areas that truly need fixing - “the pantyhose” of Wilson. The residential halls, which have numerous issues ranging from poor heating to structural concerns, were not included at all on the tour given to alumnae. The athletic fields at Kris’s Meadows, which flooded so much last year that coaches used shop vacuums in an attempt to remove enough water to make the surface playable, were also not included. There are many other areas throughout campus that need repairs, some probably not even known to students. The college is aware of these issues, but because of the low amount of funds available every year, much of it has been deferred until a time when more money is available.
And yet, alumnae don’t know, and still aren’t fully aware, of all the areas in need of help throughout campus – a clear indication of the massive disconnect between students and alumnae. The symptoms of this disconnect are readily evident – the only alumnae many students know are the ones who graduated during the time students also attended, or who are faculty/staff members who are mainly seen in regards to their current position, not as alumnae. There currently is no full connection or way for the student body to fully interact with alumnae.
It wasn’t always this way. During their visit to campus, alumnae explained to students that there once existed something called the “Aunt Sarah” program, where first-year students were paired with alumnae who would write letters and send gifts, with the eventual goal of the student discovering the alumna’s true identity. It’s a shame this program isn’t currently active, since such a connection could only benefit students. It could both help students develop a stronger connection to the college and its traditions, as well as allowing alumnae to pass along the Wilson ideal.