Written by Isabelle St. Clair.
It’s impossible to forget that Hillary Clinton graduated from Wellesley College, especially when you attend said college. By May, every other student was wearing a Hillary sweatshirt or had a Hillary sticker stuck to their water bottles and computers. The college bookstore was fully stocked with Clinton’s books and other swag, even her action figures. All anyone could talk about was the presidential campaign and speculate if Clinton would speak at Commencement next year. So as my junior year at this women’s college came to a close, I felt like I was living and breathing in a Hillary Clinton shrine.
This is, of course, a slight over-exaggeration. But compared to other small, private liberal arts colleges the support for Hillary Clinton on campus is overwhelming. My friends who attend other liberal arts colleges tell me that the opposite is true at their institutions. A recent poll revealed that 65% of the student body would vote for Clinton, compared to 14% for Sanders and a meager 2% for Trump. With Clinton’s presumptive nomination this August, the numbers will surely rise in her favor. There’s no doubt that Wellesley students will support one of their own. This, however, does not suggest that students support her because she attended our school or is the most prominent female candidate, as some might suggest. In the same poll, 31% of students said that the gender of the political candidate did not matter, while 51% said it mattered a little. Students support her, as they would any other candidate, because they find her the most qualified.
And yet time and time again, Wellesley College and Hillary Clinton are strangely synonymous. Within these last couple months, whenever I introduce myself to new friends and colleagues and mention that I am a rising senior at Wellesley College, I am oftentimes asked, “Are you voting for Hillary?” Sometimes I’m not even granted the courtesy of a question, but rather am told, “Oh, you must be voting for Hillary!” I don’t mind such questions and statements because I get to launch into deep discussions on American Politics, a fun, but recently nauseating pastime. Sometimes I wonder whether students at the University of Chicago or the Wharton School are asked if they are affiliated with Sanders or Trump as much as I am asked about my affiliation with Clinton.
It is not only my personal encounters that speak to the Wellesley-Hillary phenomenon. The media is chock-full of Wellesley-Hillary stories. A quick Google search will yield at least forty articles, from big and small news outlets alike, about everything: Clinton’s 1969 Commencement Speech, the student group (Wellesley Students for Hillary) on campus, the alumnae donations to the campaign, etc. There’s even a late June CNBC article titled“ Meet the Wellesley Graduates who do not support Hillary Clinton.” Other quick Google searches on the other candidates and their alma maters pale in comparison. Why such an intense focus on Clinton’s alma mater? How does this change the image of her campaign? Why is this kind of infuriating?
With these questions stirring around in my mind, I turned to the only people who might be able to provide me with answers and sympathize: other Wellesley students. Some students said the media is drawn to Clinton’s relationship to Wellesley College because the college itself is such a “veiled world” that any reporter is curious to know what happens there. Other say that it’s a mine-field for good stories, just look at the CNBC article mentioned above. But for me my frustration and confusion was summed up by Riann Tang, Class of 2019, and touched on by many others: “It goes back to patriarchy and sexism.” This is a little overarching and it touches on the very foundation of my frustration. We question a woman’s education and qualifications more than a man’s. We believe that women do not choose to vote, but are dictated how to vote, so when they don’t vote for “their own” it contradicts mainstream expectations. We find discomfort in women’s colleges and therefore put it under a microscope again and again and again. Whatever reasons we come up with, it doesn’t seem to warrant such intense fascination.
As a young Asian American woman, I find this fascination particularly unnerving. In the media, there is too much talk about Clinton’s college and not enough about what Clinton has done to support Asian American communities. On campus, there is more political support for Clinton than there is support for the students of color on the campus. Furthermore, it is so difficult to be seen aligned so closely with a woman who may be shattering the glass ceiling, while the bamboo ceiling is left intact.
Day after day, as Hillary Clinton’s chances of becoming president grow, the chatter at Wellesley becomes a loud chorus. While the school will not endorse any particular candidate at this time, it’s clear where its support lies. But I find it important to remember for myself and to tell others that my college does not tell me who to vote for; it does not mean that I love Wellesley any less. As one classmate put it, “She just happened to go to Wellesley.”