Op-Ed: Is This Wonderland?
To the Meredith community:
It’s time we had a talk. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, @dearmereco on Instagram is/was a page dedicated to sharing the experiences of BIPOC Meredith community members. It has been quite a while since anyone has heard from us. We’ve heard the rumors surrounding our sudden departure. To truly understand where DearMereCo went, it’s important to understand where the page came from.
DearMereCo was started for a simple reason: people were hurting. We held our breath as we saw George Floyd take his last, and protestors took to the streets to fight for change. The fight to end police brutality opened up a larger conversation about how pervasive racism is in America. BIPOC students began sharing their experience of attending predominantly white institutions (PWIs), explaining how their schools made it virtually impossible to thrive.
The page began in an effort to showcase the relevance of these conversations to Meredith. From the summer of 2020 to the spring semester of 2022, we received over 150 submissions from students, alumni and faculty. It was believed that the page would create real change, and it has. Almost every DEI-based initiative on campus was a result of students’ stories from the page. Prospective and incoming students still peruse the page to become better informed of the community they want to join. Student leaders have taken legitimate initiative on campus to resolve and prevent negative experiences, and most faculty and staff have supported them in the process.
But the ugly reality is that these efforts have been overshadowed by people who are more interested in protecting Meredith’s reputation over its students. Administration has shown everyone their ugly in words and in deeds. They publicly support renaming a building to remove racist individuals from our campus, but privately justify why those names should remain.
The page is/was a safe haven for the untold stories of the Meredith community. But it became clear that there was no one to tell ours. DearMereCo tried to compartmentalize for as long as possible. But we were fighting a fight at the cost of living. It was exhausting having to carry the secrets of Meredith as well as our own. DearMereCo gave so much of ourselves to the cause that there was no room for our humanity.
Our last post was 385 days ago. Readjusting to a life without daily posts was difficult. For so long, we were convinced it was our fault for not trying hard. Not a day goes by that we aren’t thinking about the page.
Recently, we’ve reflected on all of this and asked ourselves one question:—why was it our job in the first place? Why was DearMereCo validated by members of administration who used our work as the backdrop to their lies? Why won’t they do better?
Meredith calls itself “Wonderland,” coined after C.S. Lewis’s “Alice in Wonderland” series. Many have chosen to believe this nickname is a reflection of the pristine reputation our school has. Nothing could be further from the truth. The College gathers for a production every four years, and yet we still seem to miss the message.
For those who aren't familiar, “Alice in Wonderland” is a form of nonsense literature. The genre intentionally defies logical and grammatical conventions, often utilizing humor and absurdity to create a nonsensical and surreal atmosphere. Lewis was one of the genre’s most well-known writers because of his word play, and the first book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is his most popular.
At its core, the book is meant to entertain. The characters Alice meets in Wonderland have a wide variety of interests and personality traits that create light-hearted chaos. It isn’t until halfway through the book that she encounters the extreme results of this environment.
Alice realizes that the rulers of Wonderland are not what they seem to be. The Queen of Hearts is the ultimate master of illusion, thriving on intimidation and empty threats to get her way. It wasn’t until Alice pushed back against her “stuff and nonsense” that they saw her for who she truly was—a pack of cards. Her willingness to disrupt the illusion allowed her to wake up from the nightmare of Wonderland.
Most of the people you encounter have their quirks and kindness. But we’re all aware of the Queens of Hearts that roam the campus. The Queens take on many forms at Meredith. From administrators and faculty members to the ever-present alumnae, these people are willing to do anything to keep the kingdom in their hands.
But the unexpected villain of the story is the King of Hearts. The role of the King is usually overlooked because of how ruthless the Queen is. He tries to please her by agreeing with everything she says, even when he knows it's wrong. It is often argued that the King fears the Queen like everyone else and submits to avoid punishment.
In reality, he is cowardly. The Kings at Meredith work to appease the Queens because they claim to fear them. They have no spines. They’re too afraid to do the right thing because they’re comfortable with the wrong thing. As for the Queens, they all spend more monitoring our comment section trying to sue, intimidate and humiliate us to avoid seeing yourselves for who you really are.
It’s time we start calling these behaviors what they are: white supremacy.
Meredith is operating exactly how it was designed: to provide white women with the education deemed most acceptable and necessary by men. They take our money like all higher education institutions do, and use it to perpetuate their cycles of harm. They invest in projects like CHESS as a way to court favor with the student body. But the only people clapping are their well-off white alumni and donors.
Wonderland is the perfect way to describe Meredith College. Our “perfect” school is nothing more than a nonsensical institution that treats its people like collateral damage. Meredith claims to want to help, yet they repeatedly assume who we are and what we want. Meredith seems to believe that our institution is immune to problems. Their concept of justice is just as twisted as the rest of the world’s.
Well, it’s time that Alice spoke up. Too many of us have lived this nightmare for too long. Meredith has made it clear that we are not their priority. They want us to buy into this school, but this school refuses to buy into us. They are motivated by public image and profits, not by morality.
To a certain extent, DearMereCo is not special or revolutionary. It was just the first time the Meredith community started paying attention. We are not individuals that you can pinpoint on campus. We are the students you entice every year during events only to ice them out when you get your first check from them. We are the students you put on your website and mailers seconds before you remind them how insignificant you think they are.
You have shown everyone what it means when privilege is prioritized over morality. You have shown everyone your disrespect when you burden BIPOC students and staff to fix your problems and explain away your mistakes (we’re looking at you, President Allen).
So when you all retire and you think back on your careers, don’t think fondly of the fundraising initiatives you took part in. Don’t think wistfully about the President’s Raids or Start Strong. Think about how you upheld white supremacy every chance you could because you were unwilling to change.
That is your legacy. That is how you will be remembered. And that is no one else’s fault but your own.