Recent Resignations Raise Questions About Institutionalized Oppression


Carson Jones

Junior lacrosse player Olivia Engle began her involvement in the Power and Privilege Symposium this year, leading a panel along with other students about Socioeconomic Status at Whitman.

Emma Fletcher-Frazer, Staff Reporter

Power and Privilege Symposium Executive Director Megan Waldau ’20 and co-programming Director Jaisa Swasey ’21 have resigned from their positions due to a lack of institutional support and structural issues within the symposium.

Waldau sent out a resignation statement on Feb. 5, writing, “My team and staff advisor, as well as the session facilitators, coaches, and volunteers, have been nothing but supportive and generous with their time and emotional labor. I feel more abused by the institution and the crushing reality of their privilege to place this labor of undoing institutional injustice on those who face it the most.”

She went on to detail the problems, including lack of willingness by professors and administration to spend time on the Symposium, as well as a lack of monetary support, adding that the burden of the work falls only on a small group of women of color.

Waldau wrote, “Noticing these intense structural issues with the Symposium, I feel as if my involvement in the Symposium upholds an institution that doesn’t care about my or my community’s pain. Denying myself the time and space to heal, when I have the choice, and privilege, to live the truth and walk away, continue the cycles of abuse and domination from institutions against women of color.”

She ended the statement with a call to action for students, asking that they consider the work of the people who created the Symposium and question the extent of their own involvement.

“Think about why you attend,” Waldau wrote. “Think about the extent of your involvement. How much are you challenging the status quo, by simply sitting in the audience and listening? Bring someone you know won’t go. Make sure you go. Make sure that these talks don’t end after one day. Don’t let the people that bear this trauma speak on it alone. These people have gotten too good at articulating their hurt, and still their cries fall on deaf ears.”

Assistant Director of Student Activities and Adviser of the Power and Privilege Symposium Funmi Oyekunle sent out an email announcing the changes for the Symposium.

“Some of our Directors have stepped down from their positions for personal reasons. We are grateful for the work they have done bringing the Symposium to fruition, and we wish them all the best in future endeavors,” Oyekunle wrote.

In addition to the two resignations, Operations Director Ari Louie ’21 resigned earlier this year after deciding to leave Whitman.