This past week, news broke that Eclectic’s paper application for new members had a page asking people to complete fill-in-the-blanks with racial slurs.
Ocean Gao ’19 wrote a post on her blog about her feelings on Eclectic’s app, and she has given us permission to repost her thoughts here. We have also included the official apology that Eclectic issued after receiving backlash from many students regarding the application’s contents. We will not be including images of the Eclectic application in this post, but one can be found above on Gao’s blog.
Additionally, we understand that students (both Eclectic members and non-members alike) have written many statements on social media about the incident. If any of those students are interested in sharing their pieces on this post, feel free to email us at staff(at)wesleying(dot)org.
On Eclectic – What Kind of Society Was I Invited to Join? by Ocean Gao ’19
I received an email on November 12 instructing me to “come to Eclectic tonight at 11:30.” I assumed there was a concert that night, but was confused as to why this email appeared to only be sent to me. I later discovered that the night’s event was to mark the beginning of a rush process to Eclectic.
As a freshman, I wasn’t too sure what Eclectic’s reputation on campus was like. All I knew was that it wasn’t a frat, but a co-ed “society.” Yet to me, this was practically synonymous with the institutions of Greek life, so I decided not to attend that night. (I’m not a fan of Greek life – it was founded on pillars of elitism, classism and racism, and largely appears to be the same way today. Greek life seems to be fundamentally based on exclusion.)
I’m pretty glad I didn’t go to Eclectic on November 12. If I had gone, seeing Eclectic’s application would have left me pretty confused and very pissed. What kind of new members is Eclectic in search of, based off this portion of its application? How does Eclectic want to present itself? What kind of society was I invited to join?
It’s been over a week since Eclectic’s application was released, and rather than taking accountability for the racial slur that was written (and has been used to subjugate people of Chinese descent for decades) and an implied use of the N-Word (which has a more known history of Black oppression), Eclectic engaged in a collective silence. They sent out emails saying that they would not be accepting new members for the coming semester, yet they did not state why. This, perhaps, is the most troubling aspect of what I’ve seen from Eclectic. Rather than pointing to this racist rhetoric in this application and taking accountability for it, Eclectic kept quiet to the public eye.
Before publishing this post, I had a conversation with one Eclectic member who told me that the page in question was written solely by one person, and oversaw solely by Eclectic’s (former) president. Ze told me that this person’s status was now inactive, and that the president had stepped down. But this does not fix the problem — this “solution” is only avoidance. Even though the page in question was only written by one person, the effect it had represented the entirety of Eclectic’s society. The page was not published under one name, but under Eclectic as one entity, meaning that they all need to take accountability.
Accountability isn’t kicking out one individual and saying that everything is okay. Accountability is questioning why the racist rhetoric appeared in the first place and considering the effect it had on marginalized identities. Please, Eclectic, take accountability. Show this campus the kind of society you want to be.
Below is an apology that Eclectic has been circulating amongst email listservs and other means.
Every semester, the society comes together to create a paper application for potential new members to fill out. In constructing this application, each member contributes a page that they feel will allow applicants to provide telling information about themselves.
Eclectic is a consensus-based society; however, this year, the pages were not distributed for the entire society to see and approve. This failure to collectively review its contents meant that when the application was made available on Thursday night, the majority of members were unaware of its final form. It was with shock, embarrassment, and shame that we realized a page which included blank spaces for applicants to complete multiple racial slurs had been included in the app.
We fully acknowledge the severity of this page. It is racially insensitive and offensive, and it was wrong to welcome the Wesleyan community into our home, which we strive to make a safer place, while there was such inappropriate and disturbing content in our application.
The society is deeply upset and embarrassed that this application, meant to represent us as a society, so strongly betrays our own individual values and those we hold as a society at large. We have been actively addressing the issue internally via a series of emergency meetings, and apologize for the late publication of this statement and lack of transparency with the Wesleyan community. As of last Thursday, we have:
- Actively discussed the issue as a society and have made sure that everyone who is a part of Eclectic understands why the page could–and does–cause pain and offend many.
- Stripped the individual who made the page of their membership.
- Elected a new society president.
- Completely stopped our new member intake process for this semester, given the problematic nature of the application.
- Suspended the hosting of social events in the house indefinitely to properly address how we want to welcome individuals into the space.
We have taken these actions in an attempt to work toward repairing the state of our society. With that being said, as a collective we would like to sincerely apologize and recognize the issues contained within our application. Moving forward, we want to better not only our intake processes, but also how we act as a society and as individual members of the Wesleyan community.
It was absolutely thoughtless and senseless for us to allow this application to have been published. A careless oversight on our part deeply offended many people, and that is unacceptable. By holding individuals accountable, making tangible changes, and continuing to reflect on who we are as a society, we hope to make Eclectic a more welcoming space for marginalized people on this campus, and a safe space for all. We would welcome a meeting with representatives from any student group on campus to address how to better rectify this situation.