The Wellesley College statue story is making news in New Zealand, and I just saw it on Al Jazeera, too! It’s clearly blown way out of proportion, so much that I now regret doing my insignificant part to give it legs in my social media presences.
Let’s be clear, only 713 people have signed the petition to move the statue as of this writing. Wellesley has approximately 2500 students. The petition is open to the public so anyone can sign. I can’t see the signatures, but I suspect that many of the signatories are not from the campus community at all. Still, even if we assume that everyone who signed is a Wellesley student, the vast majority of students have no problem with the statue being where it is. That is consistent with what I am hearing.
I have spent my entire adult life in higher education environments of various sorts: public and private, large and small, technical and liberal arts, foreign and domestic. Student protests are frequent and healthy. They seldom get much traction in the media, even when they are much larger and even when they work for it. What is it about this one that has caused such buzz? Would this story have gotten so much attention if it had happened at a coed liberal arts college? Or is it the fact that Wellesley is such an highly rated college, so there’s delight in knocking it down? Or is it that people delight in seeing a students at a liberal arts college behaving so narrow-mindedly? Whatever it is, the story has been carried way beyond whatever legs it should have had.