Stop Silencing Us

Last week, all student activist work was removed from the campus center and other buildings around campus. Administration cited the posting policy as the reason, a policy which has only been referenced previously in the last four years as a reason to tear down other student activism. Under the guise of cleaning up campus, postings were removed with no alternative being given, and the student option for speaking out was taken away just as all students printer emails had been. They tore down everything about sexual misconduct and silencing student voices, everything about all gender bathrooms, even all of the Palestinian activism anywhere outside of the dorms. Students had already requested that this work be left alone or given more information prior to removal, but the work was taken down overnight. All of these topics had previously faced censorship on campus, and this was a new tactic from admin aimed at removing our work to create a nice and sanitized Olin in advance of inauguration. 

This silencing of our voices feels discrediting and invalidating of our pleas for safety on campus. We feel excluded from the space we deserve. It feels frustrating to be caught in a cycle of StAR acting first without consulting students. StAR needs to directly consult students before taking action. StAR has the potential to greatly change things at Olin if they follow through with their proposed changes and what the working group has been working on. However, we know there have been many times these proposed changes have been dropped through the transition of semesters.

 We are speaking up for ourselves and our peers out of necessity, all in an attempt to curtail the silence and suffering of others now and in the future. This has gone on long enough, we are asking you, begging you, to join us in speaking up and speaking out, in not taking no for an answer, in demanding kindness and respect and dignity as human beings in this world. So support us in our work, sign in agreement, and refuse to tolerate the repetition of these failing cycles of change. We need real changes and it can only come from us.

We’ve compiled a short list of demands in response to the ongoing sexual misconduct issues that have been discussed for the last two months as well as the silencing of student voices. You can find this google doc at and sign your name to show support. As a small group we have been unable to get the attention and recognition from Olin’s administration in a way that will convince them to act, so we are sharing our cause to bring more attention to these issues. We are using our voices to create much needed change, speaking out against our institution and pushing for lasting change to processes and not just placating conversations and singular initiatives. 

Hey, Class of 2022

Shit is rough, but you are wonderful. And the wonderfulness of you will endure, in the exact way that the rain pouring in my backyard right now will not. Uncertainty defines everything these days, yes, but I believe in your enduring wonder because I’ve seen who you are and what you can do.

I remember I had a conversation with some of you in March 2020 about how you come to trust people and the expectations you have for the relationships you’ve got and the ones you’ll build, and the courage that taught you how to understand and embrace criticism, and to speak truth to power. Since then, I’ve heard many of you express your concerns about holding onto the selves you’ve built here after you leave this place. Though it may not happen immediately, you will one day find places – jobs, community groups, bands, theater troupes, whatever – that do not see your brave curiosity as a liability, but rather as a beautiful, beneficial thing. Whether your work fulfills you or you yearn for something more, you can become – perhaps you already are – an activist. You can engage with your future communities in so many ways that are sorely needed. You can volunteer, teach, discuss, mentor, build. The skills you have brought with you to your learning and then honed throughout your education will keep you going in this work.

If you struggle to find your feet beneath you as you move on to this next stage, fear not; this is the natural course of things. Maybe the most important things geriatric millennials like me can bestow upon Gen Z are these four points: 1) the “insert college degree, expect economic prosperity” model has proven to be a myth for some time now, 2) your life is going to feel like a series of fits and starts, forever delayed, 3) it’s really alright if you don’t go straight from point A to points B and C, etc., and 4) all of this, friends, is not a personal indictment of you.

Let me tell you a story. I finished my undergraduate program in 2009. Shit was rough then, too, but there at least was no global pandemic to contend with. I moved just outside Boston a few weeks after I received my degree on a frigid day in upstate New York. I tagged along to Massachusetts with a group of people I hardly knew because I had no other plans lined up. That was a cruel summer; it rained a record-setting 27 of 30 days in June. I had nothing much to do, though, no job and no prospects, so I walked the flat streets of Waltham until I knew them like the hilly, curving roads of my hometown.

Eventually my money ran out and I took a job at a CVS in Wellesley, the small one on 135. I was the photo lab manager, but because I wasn’t working in a “professional” job utilizing my degree, I felt a shame that I carried around like an unshakeable aura. I felt like I’d failed so many people: myself, my parents, my brother who was currently working on a PhD in computer science, my partner at the time, a chemistry major who had snagged a job downtown. At CVS, we didn’t have a proper darkroom at the store so I used to have to go down to the basement with the lights all turned off, stumbling over the off-season merchandise, to change the photo printer paper cartridges. The baffling precariousness of that situation is a fitting metaphor for this whole period of my life.

I quit a couple weeks into the new year, 2010. At this point, I had decided to go back to school to get my Masters in Library and Information Science, in part because I grew tired of men throwing newspapers at me when I asked them to walk five feet over to an open checkout station (silly me, I should have anticipated grumpy dudes throwing stuff at people would also be a problem in public libraries). I obviously still needed money, so I took a job north of Boston at a hair salon software company and built websites for stylists and spas in New England for a few months, and yes, it was exactly as ridiculous as it sounds, and then I started my MLIS almost exactly a year to the day after I arrived in Massachusetts. I lived in a different apartment with different people by then. I’d lost some old friends and made some new ones. I got my cats, who you’ve probably seen on Discord or Instagram.

So, happily ever after, right? Lol, no. It took me years – ones that contained a cross-country move, a stint in a very modestly successful electronic rock band, a failed marriage, and several family tragedies – before I felt “on track.” I went from point A to point Q to some point not even identifiable in this alphabetic system before I got to point B. These are the fits and starts I mentioned. Things got especially confusing from 2016-2018, when I took on a very stressful job and had a big falling out with my main friend group. I spent much of that time being a jerk, taking unnecessary risks, and making mistakes that I thought I had learned from – and mind you, this was the very end of my 20s, over seven years after I’d entered “the real world.” The day some sense got knocked into me wasn’t even when I woke up in the hospital after a driver hit and left me while I was biking in Brighton, but probably the night three months after that when a set of stairs collapsed under me in Allston as I was carrying my bike out of the house of a person who didn’t deserve one more second of my time. (Yes, this must be a scene in one or more redemptive indie romcoms with a strong female lead and a lot of ukulele strumming.) And even after that, I have continued to mess up. I have messed up prodigiously in these 13 years since I got my bachelor’s degree, and I know I’ll mess up routinely forever, but you know what? That’s the deal. We’re all on board for this. There’s nothing you can do to stop many of your own screwups until you’ve been on earth long enough to practice avoiding them, but you can do one thing to help you through it. You can remember point 4 from the above. Point 4: “All of this, friends, is not a personal indictment of you.”

I have gotten to know some of you better than others, but you are all impressive to me. The things I’ve seen you build, the teams I’ve seen you working with, the art I’ve seen you make – it’s been a joy. I’m a little weepy as I sit here and imagine not seeing you on campus anymore; your shoes are unfillable by anyone but you. But that’s part of the deal, too – you must go on, and you must mess up outside the bounds of our campus, and you must be the change you want to see in the world, the big one out there beyond our wee bubble.

I’ve been sitting here staring out at the rainy dark for a while without many ideas for a good closing paragraph, so I’ll leave you with someone else’s words. They are a more eloquent way of stating the first sentence of this letter: “Shit is rough, but you are wonderful.” You were, after all, challenged to “do something” when you came to us, and I share this in the spirit of challenging you to keep at it after you go, even if you’re feeling like a mess because you’re stuck in the dark at the CVS stockroom of life, trying not to trip over last year’s Halloween decorations.

“Nature teaches persistence and perseverance, because in the end nothing stops nature. If a rose can grow out of the concrete, so can we.”

– Micah Hobbes Frazier, racial justice activist, kind of quoting rapper Tupac Shakur, quoted in adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy

So go forth and grow, you wonderful little roses, you.

What’s on your mind?

Whenever I write for a large audience, I try to center my writing around one key value: inclusivity. I seek to write in a way that everyone can connect with, not seeking agreement but at least an invitation that “Hey, it’s okay to disagree.”

This month, I’ve spent a long time thinking about how to do that. I’ve seen people in so much pain, anger, exhaustion, curiosity, and joy, and I don’t know how to write about it. I knew that I wanted to write something, I was simply bursting with opinions and thoughts. I wanted to move beyond the dining hall conversations about course registration and housing, into something that was new and somehow fresh. I spent days deliberating how to do this, how to create a representative opinion, how to process the frayed fabric of Olin that I honestly feel is best typified by its website – too many unexpected pangs of disappointment with the “Oops! This page cannot be found.” A missing connection that really should be there. 

And then I realized – what if I just ask? Find people in the Olin community, and simply ask them, “What’s on your mind?” Note – the question isn’t, “What do you feel about the OlinTM issues?”, but rather, “What are you thinking about right now?” And that’s intentional. I didn’t want this to be a platform for opinions, but rather a candid reflection of what Oliners are frankly thinking. 100 words. 11 people.

I’m relieved that the semester is ending. I’m sad that the semester is ending. I’m curious to see what’s next. I’m anxious about what will happen next. I’m excited to celebrate Gilda’s inauguration. I’m hopeful that big things are coming. I’m exhausted. I’m eager to be outside, away from email and Zoom. I’m enchanted by blue skies and forsythia and flowering trees. I’m trying to just experience it all. – Alison Wood

Lately with finals, obviously, and the fiasco with suites- that took up a lot of my mind at the time, and eventually I was like, “I’m not going to get a suite”. And then finals are happening. I have a large project to do there that I just came from a meeting. We feel behind but we’re not sure if we’re behind yada yada. And I have other responsibilities and other jobs. I CA, as you know. I’m currently dogsitting, which is a whole lot of work and a ton of back and forth and running from place to place. I haven’t really had space to think so this is nice. – Ben Morris

“How do you disrupt a downward spiral of being disconnected in a way that makes things better? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. Especially because I think there are pent-up frustrations that people have been carrying around. If you don’t know how to release what’s been pent up, or can’t find an outlet, then what? In our culture, we look to our community for support. We seek solace from our community when things aren’t working well, when the rest of the world is chaotic. The community is supposed to be where we can lift each other up. And that doesn’t seem to be happening as much as it should.” – Gilda Barabino

What I’m thinking about is, that the price of Ubers going into Boston is getting ridiculously expensive. Like my first year, it was like 18-20 bucks, maybe 25 on average. That’s expensive, but you’re like “I can make it work”. And I came back from Boston today, and it was 45 bucks. And I was tearing my hair out – like this is ridiculous, it’s a lot of money. And so then I went to Boston three times this weekend, and each time I went it was like “UGH, my bank account is crying”. And it’s not even the stuff I’m doing in Boston it’s just for getting there. – Shashank Swaminathan

What’s on my mind?  Storm clouds and weeping willows.  After this extremely difficult year, I have so many things on my mind and it’s left me overwhelmed.  But I chose images that may represent hard feelings, but are also beautiful in and of themselves.  And that really is what is on my mind – incredible fatigue from a tumultuous year and compassionate acknowledgment that it takes energy to weather a storm and there is comfort to be found in the shade of the weeping willow.  We are tired and strong, stressed and still breathing.  We are here together still.  Adva Waranyuwat

Each of us experiences Olin differently, both because of our own individual vantage point and our roles at Olin. Thus, there is no “the students,” “the faculty,” “the staff,” or “the administration.” The number of people in each of those categories is small, yet none of them are monolithic. We are a collection of individuals, having these very different experiences. At the same time, we are often much more aligned in our goals and desires than we realize. I hope that we can continue to work towards finding a common space, so that we can bring our individual perspectives and strengths to be a better whole made up of all of our glorious, messy, passionate, and brilliant parts. – Anonymous

When the weather’s nice, a man sits on a bench all day blasting music near my house. The other morning a song from the Breakfast Club movie was followed by Olivia Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License.” It’s almost like he’s DJing for the neighborhood; it’s like a soundtrack to his life. You can almost tell his emotions by the songs that he chooses to play. So this has been on my mind: relating to music. Everyone can somehow relate to music, and that got me thinking: “What would I play if people could hear in the morning how I was feeling, and if my music choices would change day-to-day?” – Courtney Beach

There’s a lot of things on my mind. I’m relieved that all my tech weeks are done. I’m sad that all my tech weeks are done. I’m very excited to graduate. I also don’t know where I’m going to live. This weekend was really fun, and I did a lot of cool things, and I feel like I’m really enjoying Olin right now and I’m really vibing, but I’m also so ready to leave. I can’t believe I’m graduating. It still feels fake. SCOPE is a lot of work. And not always fun work. But it’s exciting. A lot of my favorite classes have been not in my major. Like I feel like my favorite classes are not engineering classes. That’s it really. – Shirin Kuppusamy

Graduation. This will be my 17th Olin graduation (that’s all the graduations). That’s a 17th year of saying goodbye to people with whom I’ve grown close. These are people I’ve had the great joy and honor of teaching, learning with and from, growing with, sharing in sadness and joy, talking through topics big (life, justice, futures, and the present) and small (vegetables, shoes, memes). Again, I brace myself for tangled emotions: pride, joy, curiosity, gratitude, and hope plus a definite sadness and self-consciousness about my selfishness as I mourn relationships that will never be the same. – Caitrin Lynch

Something that’s been on my mind a lot recently has been, what do I want to do after graduation? And a tension with what do I feel responsible to do? I feel this responsibility to go into like, climate crisis mitigation. But that’s doesn’t necessarily bring me a lot of joy? It’s necessary, but also really heavy on my soul to do that work? Part of me wants to screw around and do aerospace or robotics or things that feel fun but not meaningful. Yet I feel this responsibility to do meaningful work because I have a skillset for that. Kind of that tension of doing things for me vs. doing things for others and like what my responsibility is as an engineer? – k

Who I am at Olin, who I’m expected to be at Olin, who I let myself be at Olin? What parts of me are core and recognized, and what parts of me are not, and neglected a little bit? And especially if you think about – being in the flow of love. Love for myself, love for one another. Without that necessarily looking like the care that I show whenever I’m a good R2. Or the sort of care that I show if I sit down one on one and have a meaningful conversation with someone. That’s a tendency that I have that I feel very valued in. And I value it a lot in myself. And at the same time it’s felt like as I transition away from this place and have 23 years of living and will have many decades to come, there’s something spreading that – I don’t know – doesn’t quite cut it. – David Freeman

If you made it to the end, congratulations! Looking back, I’m not quite sure why I did it. I guess I learned, I connected, and I grew. And you probably got something different out of it. Um, I didn’t have time for a fancy reflective conclusion (which I suppose is how the seniors feel) – come tell me what you think about it!

Drunk Horoscopes

Taurus (Apr. 20 – May 20): Is this real life or is this just fantasy? Why not test it out? Pinch yourself. Ask your best friend on a date. Stand on a table dining hall and sing a song. Mix all the sodas with sriracha. Eat floor wax. But I don’t need to draw more attention to myself than I already am. All the tests came back negative. Therefore, Connecticut.

Gemini (May 21 – Jun. 20): You are the eye of the tiger. Or the knee of the lizard. It’s okay if you are still figuring yourself out. You have so many options, think for a minute. You can be any animal body part you like. 

Cancer (Jun. 21 – Jul. 22): Don’t stop believing, hold onto that feeling. That feeling of a tickle slowly dissolving into dread. You know what else is weird about horses?

Leo (Jul. 23 – Aug. 22): Take me on a trip, I’d like to go someday. Take me to New York, I’d love to see L.A. Take me on a trip in my favorite rocket ship. You’ll be my American rocket ship. I love you, Saturn V. 

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sep. 22): Ain’t no mountain high enough. Ain’t no valley low enough. Ain’t no river wide enough. Man, this minecraft world sucks. But there is no global warming in minecraft. We can do whatever we want.

Libra (Sep. 23 – Oct. 22): At first I was afraid, I was petrified, then I asked for an extension and my professor was on my side. Then I spent so many nights working on the assignment. I went to CA hours and got all my questions answered. And I grew strong. And I learned how to get along.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21): You can set yourself on fire, but you’re never gonna burn burn burn. Like the pride flags in the dining hall, you are not particularly flammable but still against the Olin fire code. You can look up the fire code on the internet. But it is dense and unclear, so you’re never gonna learn learn learn.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21): Hey Jude, don’t make it worse. Make sure to avoid saturated fats, eat fruits and vegetables, and avoid the consumption of processed food. Increase your physical activity to at least 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity per week. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol. Remember to make regular visits with your cardiologist and let her into your heart so she can start to make it better. 

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19): It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you. There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do. Don’t worry baby, it’s really hard to kidnap a blue whale. 

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18): She wears short skirts, I wear T-Shirts, she wears socks, I also wear socks. She buys her socks from Costco, don’t ask me how I know that. Don’t buy socks from Costco this week, someone put itching powder in all of them.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – Mar. 20): Here comes the sun. Why are you so cool?! You are the weather at Spring Soiree, too cool for real school. Be like summer in the spring, and do the thing halfway. You can always duct tape your tits. Remember that. It’s all right. 

Aries (Mar. 21 – Apr. 19): Do you like pina coladas? With or without rum? It’s fine either way, I was making a new batch anyway, I can make it any way you like. Wait, you don’t like coconut? Well then is it even a pina colada? Well I guess pina colada means strained pineapple, so I can just give you pineapple juice with ice if you want. No, we’re not actually making pina coladas, it’s just for the drunk horoscope. 

Assorted other stuff: 

What could an elephant really give you?