Swarthmore, Don't Forget Me
As I write this, I sit at Dean Braun’s office table after being here for over three days, supporting Organizing for Survivors sitting in. I shouldn’t feel like I belong here, yet, I do. These past few days, this large office has come to feel like a home. I am humbled seeing every person sitting here without waver, despite knowing this office was never made to hold us. I doubt the founders of Parrish Hall ever envisioned that a group of POC students, LGBTQ+ students, survivors, and their allies would use this space as we are now—to protest for our voices and lives. I also am filled with worry that this movement will become forgotten as the summer begins.
Sitting in and speaking out is harder today. Today, I am in pain, exhausted, and generally just desperate for a nap. I’ve reflected on each story I have heard over the last few days while also trying to process what it means to share my own. There are moments when I think about the look on Dean Braun’s face when I read the announcement of the sit in, her eyes confused and angry. I think about her loud silence as I told her that we needed a real response, real apology, and real action. I can’t help but feel empowered by the fact that I stood up to someone in a position of power. . But there are other moments when I am having a panic attack on the bathroom floor in CAPS as I relive my assault on repeat in my mind.
Every event has occurred in tandem with one another. These events have forced me to process so many things I wasn’t yet ready to. I wasn’t ready to tell my parents about my assault, but yet now they know because I shared my story with the media. I wasn’t ready to process my assault, but being here, I am constantly aware of what happened to me. I don’t know how to process feeling so broken,yet feeling so whole. I feel a sense of family amongst those of us sitting in.I don’t know all their names, but I trust them all to fight for what is right. I care so much about all of them. I want to know that they are okay. I appreciate them and all of their emotional labor more than I can put into words.
As the academic year winds down, I want to keep things in perspective. I’m looking toward next fall, when I will be one of the few remaining O4S Core members. I think a lot about what that means for not only myself but the school as a whole. I look back on the time I’ve spent in this office and think about what it will mean to go home this summer to Montana and no longer be surrounded by my friends and allies.
As I reflect, the lingering thought that permeates my mind is that we cannot forget these moments. As a community, we talk so much about institutional memory at Swarthmore and this is one of the times when it really matters.
We cannot let our strength, anger, and energy fade over the summer. We have to remember that there are inherent flaws in our Title IX system. We need the principles of restorative and transformative justice to be a key part of our community. We cannot let our movement fall to the wayside.
Right now, I am calling out to the administration:
Don’t forget me because I will not forget you. I won’t forget the silences and all of the times you treated us like we were worthless. They are ingrained into my memory. I will never be silent. I will fight for myself and my friends until Swarthmore is a safe institution for everyone.
Note: While Shelby Dolch is a member of O4S' Core, her views do not reflect their collective vision.