Kyle McQuillan, W&M Class of 2017
Kyle McQuillan arrived at William & Mary in 2013. During her time at William & Mary, she participated in Kappa Delta and Student Conduct. Additionally, she was a member of the crew team during her freshman year and a member of the club lacrosse team her junior and senior years.
After graduating in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies, McQuillan joined the staff of William & Mary Libraries as part of a one-year Mosaic Fellowship. Her time as a fellow has been spent working with the Cuban Film Project—fabricating physical and online exhibits of Cuban film posters. In Fall 2018 she will pursue a Doctorate of Philosophy in Romance Languages at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In her interview, McQuillan recalls her time at William & Mary as being formative and challenging. McQuillan highlights how her experiences with female professors such as Professor Ann Marie Stock and Professor Francie Cate-Arries led her to declare a Hispanic Studies major. She reflects on moments of belonging, like eating Wawa on the Sunken Gardens and her time on club sports teams. Yet, McQuillan passionately speaks of the institution’s shortcomings, such as its stress culture, lack of diversity, and poor handling of sexual misconduct cases. These institutional failures feel particularly salient to McQuillan post-presidential election, and she notes the election’s galvanizing effect on the student body. Her work as a Mosaic Fellow in Swem Special Collections reminds her that “so much of this school has happened on the backs of people whose narratives were never included.” Her education at William & Mary reminds her that “learning should never be something that you stop.”
William & Mary
Interviewee: Kyle McQuillan
Interviewer: Carmen Bolt
Interview Date: April 16, 2018
Carmen: My name is Carmen Bolt. I’m the oral historian at William & Mary. It’s currently around 10:00 a.m. on April 16, 2018. I’m sitting in the Alumni House with Kyle McQuillan, class of 2017. So can you start by telling me the date and place of your birth and the years you attended William & Mary?
Kyle: Sure. December 29, 1994 in Alexandria, Virginia. And I was at William & Mary from 2013 to 2017.
Carmen: Okay, great. And before we jump into your time at William & Mary, could you tell me first about where and how you were raised? You said you were born in Alexandria. Is that where you were raised?
Kyle: It was close. We had a house in Alexandria until I was about a year and a half and then we moved out about ten minutes past Dulles Airport in Loudon County, and that’s where my parents still live, so I lived there my whole life. Yeah.
Carmen: And can you tell me a little bit more about your family? Just maybe what your parents did.
Kyle: Yeah, yeah. So I have—it’s my mom and dad and my little sister. She is five years younger than me, currently a senior in high school.
00:00:57 My mom is a nurse and my dad does federal contracting, implementation of financial strategies or something. He tells me about it a lot and I never remember what he actually does. So yeah, he actually also went to William & Mary, was an econ major, and then just kind of stumbled into the business world in D.C. after that.
Carmen: Great. And so you mentioned your dad went to William & Mary. So when did you start thinking about college, and can you explain kind of how you chose William & Mary, although it might have been very well because your father went here.
Kyle: Yeah, so it actually was not. I swore like up and down that I wouldn’t go here because my dad did and I didn’t want to just kind of follow him. He also, like, really liked his time here, but not because of the institution. He really liked his friends, and liked his social experience, but I think really struggled academically, and so he didn’t really talk much about it. I hadn’t…I, although we lived three hours away, did never come to visit until the end of my junior year of high school. We came for like a weekend visit, just my dad and I.
00:02:00 Took a tour and the whole thing. And I told him I didn’t really like it, and…but did because I had already told everyone that I wouldn’t go here because they were like oh, you’re going to go to William & Mary because your dad went there. And then I came back that summer for a week. I was on the crew team in high school so I came here for a week for camp, loved it, still didn’t tell anyone.
And then in like October my parents were really frantic because I hadn’t expressed interest in any colleges, and my mom made me go to UVA. And on the drive I begged her not to make me go visit because I hated UVA. And she was like, well, we have to take you back to places because you don’t seem to like anywhere and I don’t know where you’re going to end up. And then I had told her that I had already submitted the early decision application to William & Mary. And yeah, I kind of went from there. So yeah, ended up one and done.
Carmen: What was your mom or dad’s reaction to that news?
Kyle: They were both very surprised, obviously. My dad was excited. Not like, you know, over the moon. He was like oh, that’s great, I’m happy that you found a school that you like. My mom felt similarly. And then when I actually got in they were both super excited.
Carmen: Yeah, I’m sure they were just grateful that you were planning on going somewhere, because it seems at that point—
Kyle: Yep. [Laughs.]
Carmen: —they were really concerned about that.
Kyle: They really were. It was…yeah, they were apparently really stressed about it, and I don’t think I helped them. I felt bad about that.
Carmen: So it was the only place you applied?
Carmen: So what did you study and why?
Kyle: So I came in planning on being neuroscience because I wanted to go to med school, and I took the first rounds of all of the intro science classes for pre-med that would have fallen under neuroscience, and some psych classes. Didn’t really like the psych piece as much as I thought I was going to. I took a Spanish class in my first semester because I took Spanish all through high school and really liked it.
00:04:00 And so I decided to not be neuroscience because I didn’t like the psych piece, and I thought I would just be biology, and that would still get me all of the pre-med requirements. So I kept taking Spanish classes just kind of dabbling. Moved from just like, you know, basic intro stuff into more true Hispanic studies classes, cultural studies classes.
And ultimately, like the second semester of my junior year, decided that I really wasn’t happy and that I really hated the science classes, and that I wasn’t actually supposed to just keep struggling through them, even though I really didn’t like them, because if I continued to struggle through four years in science here and then four years of science elsewhere, I wasn’t going to like a job in science.
So at that point I had already picked up a Hispanic studies major, so I dropped my biology major to a minor so I didn’t have to take a ton more classes and decided to pick up the Hispanic studies major. So yeah, kind of went from there.
Carmen: So what kind of reception did you receive from your family and also from individuals at the school when you decided to make that change?
Kyle: So at the school people were very, like my friends were happy for me, I guess. No one is particularly excited about anyone else’s major. Like they were kind of doing their own thing. But my friends were like oh, that’s great. You like Spanish? I’m happy for you.
My professors were excited. I had two in particular that had been kind of pushing me in the direction of Hispanic studies for a while. My parents were happy that I had done something that I enjoyed, but I think very concerned that I was leaving this very straight and narrow kind of path that I had decided freshman year of high school that I was going to be a doctor, and I just never mentioned anything else, and had never gone off of that path at all.
00:05:56 So they tried to be as excited as they could, but didn’t really get on board until I had like another path. I think they, because I decided to finish out all the pre-med requirements, because I felt like I was quitting if I just dropped it, so I continued to take sciences all the way through the end of my senior year so I could apply tomorrow if I wanted to, because I have the classes. But I don’t think…like I think they just kind of assumed that I would change my mind and go back to it until I figured out that I was going to go to grad school for Hispanic studies.
Carmen: You said you finished out those pre-med classes because you don’t like quitting. Was that a personal thing or was that a William & Mary thing?
Kyle: I think it’s kind of both, right? Like this is a really interesting culture with the student body as far as like pushing yourself beyond what is maybe necessary or healthy.
00:06:57 And so I knew that I was miserable, and knew that I hated them and that I wasn’t excelling, and it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing. But I decided to stay because I didn’t want to be one of every, however many freshmen that comes in is pre-med, right? And then like 80% of those people drop by senior year, and it’s because a lot of them shouldn’t have been pre-med to begin with, and all of them aren’t good at science, and a lot of them are not supposed to be in medicine.
But I didn’t want it to seem like I had spent all that time for nothing and like I was quitting on this dream that I had kind of concocted for myself far before I got to school. And I really just didn’t think that it was an option to change my mind.
Carmen: Great. So I want to jump into a couple different things you said there, but before we get to that, if we could back up a little bit and you just tell me about your first memory at William & Mary, whether it was that junior year or when you finally came here as a student, what it looked like, what it felt like, smelled like.
Kyle: Yeah, so I had like a couple of visits before I actually got in, the first one with my dad that first weekend. I don’t remember much of what we actually did that weekend. I just remember thinking it was pretty and immediately being more drawn to this place than I was to UVA or any of the other schools that I had seen. Crew camp was nice, but we were not on campus a lot. We were out on the water and doing other things.
I think the first time that I really enjoyed being here and really fell in love with campus is after I got in we found out one of the last days of November of my senior year of high school, and so my parents decided to come down for a long weekend a few weeks later before Christmas. And so Williamsburg in December is beautiful. We came down right around Grand Illumination, so they have all like the fruit wreaths up in Williamsburg, and it wasn’t quite finals, so there were still people out and doing things.
00:09:03 And yeah, just immediately, like the second I was on campus was just obsessed, loved it, like didn’t spend any time senior year thinking about anything other than just coming to college and just being here. I came down a couple more times for admitted students day, and then my freshman roommate and I drove down two weeks, I want to say two weeks before classes started, and the door to one of the units was propped open, and no one was around, so we snuck in and saw what our room was going to look like, and went to Cheese Shop and did all of the incoming freshman things. Yeah, and I was really just kind of obsessed from day one.
Carmen: Is that something that continued all the way through, like by the end of your time at William & Mary as a student were you still kind of obsessed with the way it looked or that feeling that you had those first few times?
Kyle: I’d say it’s complicated. There are definitely moments where it felt like that, and especially the whole first semester I think is just like a kind of universal, like for a lot of people you’re going off on your own for the first time, and for me especially, I’d lived in the same house my entire life and had never gone any further than like Ashburn, so it was like a really exciting first semester, and definitely highs and lows of missing your family and being homesick, but also being obsessed with this place.
So I think that it definitely evened out. Around graduation it was the same excitement. And there are certainly still things that I absolutely love about this place, and certain spots on campus, like walking certain directions on campus are super nostalgic in a weird way, and doing certain activities really still bring that out. But I would say it definitely has changed with my experience of actually being here.
00:11:00 Because I kind of created this place in my head as being so different and so unique from what I had done before, and so far from home and all of these things. And after, you know, this is my fifth year here, it’s kind of home now. So it’s still a great spot, but it’s different.
Carmen: Great. And so you mentioned that when you were making this transition from pre-med or bio classes to Hispanic studies there were a couple professors in particular that had kind of been helping you with that decision. Who were those individuals and what was their impact?
Kyle: Yeah, so Professor Ann Marie Stock, Professor Francie Cate-Arries, Professor Jonathan Arries, Troy Davis in the media center were all very influential. Troy is not technically in Hispanic studies, but he co-taught a course that I took second semester of my junior year with Professor Stock called Curate Connect to Cuba, and we worked on curating an exhibit in the Botetourt Gallery of Cuban film posters.
00:12:03 We went to Cuba for spring break. We just connected with a lot of people, and it was based on Troy and Professor Stalk’s research, but it was the first time that I felt like I got to take ownership over something outside of my immediate academic life. And the summer before I studied abroad in Cadiz, Spain with Professor Cate-Arries. And she just is the most compelling reason to join the Hispanic studies major.
I’ve never met anyone that has taken a class with her and not ultimately picked up a minor, at the very least, or become a major because she will make you want to be in Hispanic studies. And so yeah, I studied abroad with her. In my time at the school took I think five classes, five, maybe six classes with her. And, I mean, just the most personable, welcoming faculty you could ever ask for.
Carmen: And were there any other mentors or individuals or advisors who stood out to you as impactful during your time here, maybe within Hispanic studies, but also outside of that?
Kyle: Yeah, I mean, I think there wasn’t a professor in Hispanic studies, especially, that I didn’t take something from, even if the subject matter wasn’t quite up my alley. There was a class that I took, Transatlantic Empires, about the Spanish colonial America.
And while that was not really my unique interest, the professor had a very different way of teaching than I had ever experienced before, and it was very challenging and made me think about things differently. And while at the time I was annoyed that I had to do things differently than I had been doing them, it was a super worthwhile exercise in different learning styles and patience, and I super respected the professor that I took that class with.
00:14:04 Yeah, and I mean like I didn’t interact too much one-on-one with most of the science faculty that I took classes with. They all seemed lovely. But outside of strict academics, is that okay to…?
Kyle: I think, so I worked a lot with student conduct. So Mark Weston, who is no longer here, who was the dean of student conduct, was a mentor and advisor and has grown to be a friend that I really respect and yeah, a wonderful person.
Carmen: So when I ask this question about notable professors or advisors or mentors, I also like to bring up the president of William & Mary. I pretty much do that across the board because at William & Mary in particular, at least for periods of its history, it seems like there is a proximity between the president or the administration and the students.
00:15:02 And so I was wondering if you have any reflections on President Reveley’s presidency or his impact at William & Mary, whether personally to you or just more broadly, whether positive or negative.
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, like I didn’t really have a lot of ties to President Reveley. I’ve never met him. He was kind of like the, I would say, more a myth within some of the student body than anything else. He was on t-shirts and dressed up as Santa and the whole thing. Yeah, I mean, I think that position is probably complicated for anyone.
This happens to be 2018, and it’s a pretty contentious time as far as social justice and moving forward. And I think he ended up being in a bit of a tough spot at the end of my time here as far as, you know, like he met with Black Lives Matter and tripped over some words that made it sound like he didn’t really understand what students of color were going through on campus.
00:16:06 And so it was a little bit of an interesting, I don’t know, kind of juxtaposition within his image within the student body. It’s like all of a sudden this person that everyone is obsessed with and is on t-shirts has said some things that like ooh, maybe they’re not actually great, and like maybe it’s just different than we thought it was. But again, I think a lot of that also comes with being a public figure.
And I don’t have a ton of opinion. I appreciate the work that he does. I know that it’s taxing and hard, and you devote your entire life to a school. But yeah. I mean, I’m definitely excited to see, after 325 years, the fact that we’ve only ever been able to pull white men as qualified leaders of an institution, it’s shocking and genuinely unacceptable.
00:16:55 So I’m super excited for Katherine Rowe to come in and to see kind of what she does as, you know, yeah, a younger woman who is ready to move things forward and…yeah.
Carmen: Yeah, it’s kind of incredible, as you were mentioning, she is the first woman president of William & Mary, and it’s coinciding with 100 years of coeducation at William & Mary. Do you have any specific hopes for the new president or the direction the college will go in under any presidency?
Kyle: There are a couple of things that I think people would like to see happen. I don’t think just having a single female president is enough to say that we’ve walked into 2018 the way that we should. The faculty, while lovely and very qualified, and wonderful people, it’s white. Like the faculty is upper middle class and white, and older, and like traditionally male.
00:18:07 Would love to see women of color, which doesn’t seem like a lot to ask and is not super radical. I don’t know. Having a faculty that is more reflective of a more diverse student body. And also to actually work harder to diversify the student body. Because we like to talk a lot about diversity, and especially diversity and inclusion, and it seems like when you pair those two words people assume that you’re on board, and you’re hip, and you’re doing things to further initiatives.
But I think a lot of times it’s easy to talk about, but then you look around and you’re like oh, but everyone here looks like me. Yeah, I mean, just to see the college reflect the actual country and not just a subset of the population. Especially it’s been 325 years. There’s no excuse for why this school is as white as it is.
00:19:03 Especially like, you know, it’s 100 years of coeducation, which is awesome, and wow, that means that there were 200 and what, 225 years before women were allowed here, but also it’s only been 50 years since African Americans were allowed, the first three women, African Americans in residence.
So, you know, while slaves built the college and while people of color worked here, and were mistreated here long before they were ever allowed in residence, we really like to celebrate these anniversaries. And while it is great, and while thank goodness we’ve done it and we’re moving forward, it’s been 50 years and everyone is still white. And it’s been 100 years and it’s our first female president, so it’s time to actually do some things.
Carmen: Yeah, definitely. Thank you for reflecting on that. I know it’s kind of a packed thing. And it will be interesting to see what happens over the next several years. So I have some broad questions for you here that allow you some time to reflect. So this one, just to start, some of your favorite memories of your time at William & Mary.
Kyle: Okay. That’s tough. I have a lot of them, big and small. Like a lot of them freshman year were small things. It was the second night of college, so we got here on a Friday. Friday was move-in and Saturday my roommate and all my freshman hall mates were going to go out. We were going to go find a party or go do something because that’s what you do in college. And so a group of 10 or 15 of us set out in a pack to go find somewhere to go out. And shockingly, no one wants 15 freshmen in their house.
00:21:00 So we wandered for like an hour and a half looking for things to do, didn’t find anything, and then ultimately the pack broke up, and my freshman roommate and two of our other freshmen hall mates went to Wawa and got mac and cheese for the first time, because we had heard that that’s what you do as a student here, and went and sat in the Sunken Gardens. And it was just like our first…it was like my first “oh, I actually go here” kind of moment.
Yeah, after that a lot of things. The candlelight ceremony at graduation. All of graduation was nice, and fun, and good to see family, and a little bit stressful. But I think the candlelight moment was the most impactful piece of that for me because it feels like that’s actually about you. The rest of graduation kind of feels like it’s about family and the school.
00:22:00 And that’s awesome, and a perfect opportunity to thank your family and everyone for getting you through this, and especially me, giving me all these opportunities to get here and go through this. But yeah, I think that was really an opportunity to sit and reflect on the people that I had become friends with. I was with my freshman roommate and her now fiancé and my other best friends, and it was a long time coming, for sure.
Yeah, I’m trying to think. They used to have, in Colonial Williamsburg, these cups that you could buy for like $13. They were good for a calendar year. And you could go walk into CW to a couple of different storefronts and refill them with ice cream, or cider, or soda, or coffee, or hot chocolate. And so, I mean, like those were some of my favorite things freshman year, is like we would all walk into CW and go get a cider refill.
00:22:58 You know, I didn’t do too well here my first semester academically, but I just had just the best time that first year. I did everything, as many things as I could. I really felt like I kind of grabbed in and really bought into everything William & Mary. But yeah. There are a lot of them. If there’s anything more specific, let me know.
Carmen: No, it’s just really a time for you to bring up as many or as few as you want. I know a lot of the ones you’ve been bringing up are from freshman year. It sounds like that was a particularly impactful time. And of course we’re still pretty close to the time you graduated, so I guess senior year is probably pretty familiar. But what about those middle years? Anything that happened during that time?
Kyle: Yeah. You know, middle years were good. Junior year was great. Well, junior year was academically difficult and I felt like I really buckled down, which was good.
00:24:00 I needed it. I needed to focus and kind of figure out what I was doing. And it was good because I feel like that was the year that I really figured out who I was trying to be coming out of college and what I wanted to actually get out of the next year. Because I feel like the first half is getting adjusted and then the second half is actually doing something with yourself now that you’ve adjusted.
And so yeah, so junior year I kind of made it the year of figuring out what I actually was happy doing, and then I dropped everything else, because I realized that I had too much on my plate and I wasn’t happy with any of it. I missed being on a sports team, so I picked up club lacrosse. I had never played before, but I decided I needed something, so I started as the goalie on the women’s club lacrosse team and I played for two years, and I absolutely loved it. That was when I kind of switched my focus to Hispanic studies. I got really involved in the conduct work that I had been doing for the last couple of years. I really focused on that.
00:25:00 I was in Greek life, so there were always things happening there. I was never on exec or anything like that, but, you know. And then just like yeah, spending time with my friends. I had finally, by junior year, had kind of figured out who my core group of friends were and was enjoying spending time with them and comfortable with myself.
Sophomore year objectively not a great time. First semester was particularly trying, academically difficult, personally really difficult. Was just, you know, stressful all around. I ended up moving halfway through my sophomore year from one room to a different room down the hall, and that ended up being the best thing.
00:26:00 From what were the worst four months of my life sprang something really great, and I made, you know, that was how I made my best friends at William & Mary. I had my freshman roommate, who I was still really close to, but I felt like I didn’t have a solid group outside of that, and both of us just kind of had each other.
But yeah, I moved in with my new roommate, and we got along very well, and she remains one of my best friends. And everything came into the upswing second semester. But I was, you know, it was not my favorite of my four years, I’ll say it that way.
Carmen: What areas did you feel supported or not supported during your time at William & Mary, if there were any?
Kyle: Do you mean like for family or institution-wise, like…?
Carmen: Across the board. Just because those years are so formative and because William & Mary in particular is so academically rigorous, and just all of that as a package. Were there any pieces of your life that you could have used more support in or that you felt comfortable with the amount of support you were receiving?
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, like definitely it was academically really tough. I feel like there’s a certain academic culture here that makes it more difficult than it has to be, and it feels like we make it harder for our peers than it needs to be by perpetuating a stress culture, and essentially like I’m working this hard, what do you mean you’re taking the night off? I have four exams and six papers, and I have to go to lab and publish this, and like it’s just ridiculous.
I bought into that more than I should have. And especially in the pre-med world there is like the sense of like oh, I have to do really well in this, I have to do really well in that, and I have to be better than everyone else because it’s a competition at all times. And I wouldn’t say the student body is necessarily competitive. Like my friends and I all shared notes and studied together and were very helpful.
00:27:59 But there’s like the pressure to get to the point where you can go to med school, or go to law school, or be in these leadership positions on campus that are so sought after and so highly regarded as being so important. And so yeah, I think definitely it would have been nice to have anyone, like have people acknowledge like oh, it’s actually fine if you’re not interested in doing any of those things, or if you’re not 4.0 and going to graduate with PBK, like that’s actually okay. It’s not like a mark on you as a human being. It’s just not everyone has a 4.0 and that’s fine.
But yeah, I mean, like my family was always super supportive. And again, my dad had, I think, a similar experience with the academic rigor was there, for sure, and I think we both felt like sometimes needlessly.
00:29:00 Especially in some of the bigger classes that I’m like, well, why do I have to get a 79.3? I like had a complete meltdown in my Calculus 2 professor’s office because I had that final back-to-back with physics and then a biology final the next day, but it wasn’t technically the three within 24 hours, so they’re not required to move them. And I was in this particular professor’s office, and was just like I had gone to office hours a bunch, and I had very little grasp of the material. It was really just not for me.
And I was just so stressed and so done with the whole process, and I was just like can you please help me? I just, like I’m one point away from a B minus in this class and I just need that little bit of support. I just need it to be moved or an extra credit assignment or something. And he just looked at me and he was like, you know, it’s a learning experience. Not everyone’s supposed to get As in every class.
00:30:00 And I was like…and that just sent me over the edge. Just burst into tears and I was like, yeah, you’re right, but like I’m not asking for an A. I don’t need an A. I need a B minus. Like please, for my own sake, like I’ve worked hard enough to merit a B minus. And it was just like good luck, not everyone deserves it in college. Cool. That’s awesome.
So I definitely felt challenged sometimes almost to the point of needlessly. But that was very different in Hispanic studies. That was very different in the humanities side. There was not a time that I needed something, or needed guidance or support, or got an extension, or someone to help me edit a paper that it wasn’t readily available. So yeah, I think just different disciplines handle things differently was something that I saw a lot.
Carmen: Yeah. Would you say that that’s… So I guess to preface, since I’ve gotten here I’ve heard a lot about student stress and the weight on students because of this academic rigor. And not just academic, either, but this participatory thing where you need to hold these leadership positions and all these other extracurriculars. Would you say that that’s something that higher level individuals, whether faculty or administration at William & Mary, are aware of, are doing anything to address? Did you see that during your time?
Kyle: Not really. Like I think everyone’s aware of the fact that students are doing a lot, but I think it’s more of a point of pride, especially for the administration. It’s like oh, look at our students. They can hold straight As and also play a varsity sport, and then a club sport, and then take on six different clubs and activities and work for admissions. And you’re like that’s the William & Mary student. They can do it all. I think individual professors are very aware of stress.
00:32:00 But also a lot of them I don’t think know individual activity levels. So when I was talking to a couple of mentors while applying to grad schools, they were like oh, can you send me your CV and I can look at some of the things that you’ve done, and we can talk about it and whatever. And I sent it over and they were like we had no idea that you were doing these things while you were here.
I think there’s just such a division in a lot of cases that they only see you in that one activity, so like you seemed fine in that meeting that we had. And you’re like oh yeah, because then I went to six other meetings. Yeah, I think it’s definitely something that should be worked on from an institutional level, but I don’t know how that would even happen. Because I think it’s, again, it’s a lot of student perpetuation.
Carmen: Yeah. It’s an interesting balance, I’m sure, it would take to strike to keep…well, to address the pride there, right, the pride in these things and the fact of students are capable, clearly, but doing all of these things, but at the same time there are real risks to a student’s welfare and health for having to carry that continually.
00:33:11 So yeah, thank you for your reflections on that. So there are a couple other things I wanted to bring up that may have been difficult during your time here. They’re not directly related to you, but they occurred during your time here, so I thought I’d bring them up before we transition. And this first thing has happened across decades and will continue to happen. So sexual harassment and assault on campus is a major issue. And in the 2000s it’s been, or especially during the time you were here it’s been discussed somewhat thoroughly, at least “Flat Hats” and things like that, whereas decades before it really might have been a little more hush-hush. But can you describe what the culture was like on campus regarding sexual assault during your time here?
Kyle: Yeah. So that’s an interesting question. I think I have two sides to that. The first, looking at it from the student conduct side. So in my first two and a half years here it was before the Virginia Title IX legislation kind of came into being that required outside groups to come in and address sexual assault and sexual misconduct violations on college campuses.
So before that time the way that William & Mary handled student hearings for sexual assault and sexual misconduct were on boards. So it was a dean of students, a couple of members of a group that worked externally with Title IX, someone else from Student Affairs, and a chair of the student conduct council as well as someone from the student conduct council recording.
00:34:59 So the way that those panels were run, we were in a board room in the campus center and you had the two students that were part of the situation on one side of the table kind of right next to each other, and all of these people in the room that were related to the campus, and technically unbiased, but also working student affairs, and two of us were students.
And I think it just was just the worst possible way anything like that could have been handled. Like the unequal power structure that that created in those hearings. Like the victim blaming kind of questions that were perpetuated, and not even intentionally, but okay, it says here that you were at a party, like walk me through your night.
00:35:57 And you as a student that has been sexually assaulted are then trying to justify your actions through a night that ended in this horrible thing that has been traumatic and possibly one of the worst things you’ve ever gone through, and you have this group where it’s pretty exclusively white men are asking you like oh, okay, so you went to this party. So you said you drank? Like yeah, okay, but how much did you drink?
Okay, but like if you had to quantify it, what time did you start drinking and then what time did you stop drinking? How many drinks did you have in those hours? But what was your intention with drinking? Do you drink a lot in undergrad? Like what about drugs? Do you ever do drugs? Did you do drugs that night? If so, like what’s your culture around substance use? Things like that, that were used in general student panels, like conduct panels, were being turned on sexual assault survivors.
00:36:58 And I think it was just the complete lack of understanding of any better way to do those cases. And so I was not a chair at that point, but I sat in as the recorder on some of them. And ended up being chair my senior year only after that practice had ended because I couldn’t have done it. I had no desire to sit in those rooms anymore.
And I think that it was poorly handled all the way around. I think the individuals were doing their best within the framework that they had been handed down as how the school handles sexual assault and misconduct. After Virginia put us on the list of schools that were not handling it appropriately, things changed. Those panels were no longer us. But I still heard about it from an institutional side a lot of times because those actions were linked with other conduct violations sometimes.
00:37:57 Then as far as like the student culture, I mean, everyone knew like that it is everywhere. If you personally hadn’t been affected, someone in your immediate friend group had. And I think the most heartbreaking things is that so many didn’t know what to call it and were just like oh, well, I did this stupid thing and cheated on my boyfriend, or like I don’t really know what happened, and now I’m not super comfortable, but all I know is that I had a really horrible night, and now I don’t ever want to look this person in the eye again, things like that.
It was normalized, like actions were normalized to the point of like then the students who had been the victims were like oh, well, I did this thing and I don’t really know what to do about it. There were obviously more egregious cases that everyone could recognize as oh, that’s bad, and that’s sexual assault.
00:38:55 But like, I don’t know, people like to talk a lot about ending rape, like trying to end rape culture on campus, but like, I mean, it’s a hard thing to kind of tear down, especially within Greek life. There are or were a lot of perceptions of certain groups as being perpetrators or being stereotyped as people that did these things at parties, or did these things in groups, which wasn’t a particularly helpful narrative.
And basis in fact, like if you wanted to say that this group is like the group that sexually assaults people in Greek life, okay, well then you should also look at clubs and varsity athletics and all of these other groups that are doing the same thing. So yeah. I mean, like it was there a lot, and I knew a lot of people that were directly affected in one way or another.
Carmen: Yeah, it sounds like it was incredibly prevalent. Outside of the conduct board and council, did you see a change in how sexual harassment, or sexual misconduct, or rape allegations were addressed or responded to, or an increase of resources for those sort of things during your time here?
Kyle: Not particularly. The one that does come to mind I wasn’t particularly involved, but I know The Haven was founded during our time here, which is a resource for survivors. They can go just sit and spend some time in a space that is safe with people that are trained in how to handle conversations with survivors. They can talk or they can not talk. And from what I understand, it has been a really helpful resource for a lot of people. But yeah, not that I noted.
00:40:59 The question of mandatory reporting was a lot more talked about in my last two years because certain staff, the majority of staff and faculty on campus are required, they’re mandatory reporters, so if they hear something from a student about a sexual assault allegation they are required to go to the school with those allegations regardless of whether or not the student actually wants that to happen. So there was a lot of talk about how that changed dynamics with advisors and mentors.
And even RAs are mandatory reporters, so your peer down the hall, my best friend my sophomore year was an RA, and a mandatory reporter. So you can’t have conversations in confidence about things like that with people that are your friends because they have to tell the school. It creates a really weird dynamic and kind of a weird power vacuum in a lot of ways.
00:42:00 But yeah, I think those were kind of the dominant conversations that I had heard.
Carmen: Thank you for talking about that a little bit. That’s a tough conversation to discuss. So during research, one other thing was—well, there were several—but one other thing was kind of a big event or something that was talked about big time in the “Flat Hat” and other news reporting was the shooting at the Crust. [Laughs.] So I, you know—
Carmen: —of course don’t mean to laugh, but it is like a big thing that happened.
Kyle: No, I would love to talk about the shooting at the Crust.
Carmen: So yeah, if you would like to discuss what that experience was like.
Kyle: Would love to. Yeah, and it is an incredibly serious thing. And the only reason that I laugh is because, I mean, that’s one of the things that comes to mind my senior year when I think of like funny things that happened with my friends that I will, like, they’ll never live down, and we will never let them live down.
00:42:58 So we, a group of us, my four roommates, or three roommates at the time on the floor of the house that I lived in, yeah, [Casey, Annie] and Morgan were out at the College Delly, and we were sitting inside. We were usually on the porch, but we decided to sit inside, for whatever reason. And so it was, you know, whatever time, around the time of the Crust shooting. And Casey and I were going to stay and keep hanging out, and we had just gotten another pitcher, and were with our friends.
And Annie and Morgan decided they were going go to Wawa and then go home because they were tired. So they left and I guess as they were walking to Wawa, they were at Wawa when it happened. Everyone poured out of the Crust. There was screaming and running and someone ran by them screaming like, “There’s shooting at the Crust!” And so Morgan and Annie tear off down the road, and apparently they’re…like in the parking lot of the hospitality house there are like a bunch of taxis generally just waiting, which is a little odd.
00:44:06 I’ve never seen anyone actually use them. But I guess Morgan and Annie ran to, like to get away, and a taxi picked them up, and it was like this older woman who crochets things, and she was like, “We gotta get you guys out of here!” And they’re like freaking out and tried to call Casey and I, and I didn’t pick up, and Casey did, and they’re like yelling at her about needing to leave.
We didn’t know that anything had happened because the College Delly just kind of quietly locked the doors and everyone just kind of stayed put. And we were inside, so we didn’t see anyone running. And so we just thought that they were being ridiculous. And I guess they went home with the cab driver. They got her card. I think one of them bought something crocheted from her at one point.
But yeah, then Casey and I, you know, just walked home unaware of anything that had happened like, you know, an hour and a half later, and were only informed when we got home. And they were, yeah, still freaking out.
Kyle: And Morgan likes to spin the narrative that she saved Annie from the shooting at the Crust.
Carmen: What a series of events that really kicked off.
Kyle: It was, it was. So that was probably not the deep reflection that you were hoping for, but it was a ridiculous experience.
Carmen: No, that’s your memory of that event. I think the fact that you tie those…those two things happened simultaneously, I think that’s important. Cause and effect. But I do wonder, if you don’t mind me asking, if even outside of some of those events, if there was any sort of concern that stemmed out of this about campus safety or the potential of shootings on campus. Obviously Virginia has a really…well, that just really hits home for Virginians in particular, but of course across the nation. And so I was just wondering if that really sparked any sort of greater fear or concern.
Kyle: You know, on a more serious note, I would like to say yes, and I would like to say that everyone tried to rally behind that as like oh, this is something that we should be concerned about. And I think it might, I mean, like it got some press, obviously, in the “Flat Hat” that you read.
I think people, the perception was more confusion, especially since—and this is horrible. Like there shouldn’t have to be a death for people to be worried about it. And I know the bouncer was severely injured and was in the hospital. But there was kind of an understanding of like oh, that was like a one off event, and they’re like oh, it wasn’t a student. And again, not that that makes it any better. But yeah, from my perspective, I didn’t have any kind of lasting conversations about safety or anything in relation.
Carmen: Okay, sure. Thank you for answering that. We’re going to jump into something you’ve already talked about a lot.
Carmen: But we’re going to just talk more about it, if you don’t mind.
Kyle: Can’t wait, yeah.
Carmen: So as a student, as has been made extremely clear, you were involved in a number of activities.
Kyle: That’s true.
Carmen: You were a member of a sorority, Kappa Delta.
Carmen: You rowed for the crew team your freshman year and then you played club lacrosse your junior and senior years. You participated in student conduct. Were there any other organizations or activities to add to that list?
Kyle: Probably if you dabble. I was in a club called Charity Water. It existed for I think three years and then the girl that had founded it left and it kind of died. But yeah, those sound like the primary activities.
Carmen: So what motivated you to be so engaged in those particular activities? What was it about those activities that caused you to want to get involved?
Kyle: Yeah, so freshman year I joined crew immediately because I loved rowing in high school. Helped found the team at my high school. And was just, one of my best friends from high school a year above me came here and was on the crew team.
00:48:02 And I was like oh, I need friends, I love the sport, why not? So joined that immediately, recruited my roommate, and so we rowed together. And that was the only thing that kept us on the team for so long, was having each other to, you know, wake up and commiserate and do all those things.
As far as Kappa Delta specifically, I hadn’t ever anticipated joining Greek life. It wasn’t something that I was interested in. But everyone on my freshman hall was rushing, and I was worried that I wouldn’t have any friends, or have a way to make friends, especially since it had been like two weeks.
I wasn’t really close to any of my freshman hall mates the way that it seemed like other freshman halls were. You know, it’s kind of a front. It’s a weekend. No one’s close to anyone. But even so I didn’t feel connected. And so I was like this is a good way to do it, I’ll do it for a weekend and then I’ll probably quit. And then I didn’t.
00:48:59 And yeah, I stayed in all four years. It was absolutely the way that I made my best friends. It was challenging in its own right, and a lot of challenges that presented in my personal life arose from relationships that had come out of Greek life. But yeah, I wouldn’t have traded my particular experience.
There are things about Greek life here that I would change. But yeah, Kappa Delta specifically was a really good place for me. And I was never on exec or particularly involved, but the vast majority of my friends came from that group. What else? Student conduct I definitely think was like the most formative thing I did while I was here. I joined my freshman year. It’s an application process, and then interviews, and it feels official.
00:49:59 And I wanted something to do that was related to the actual institution, not just a club for myself. Honor council sounded cool. And then I found out that conduct does the same thing, but everything that isn’t lying, cheating and stealing, which is what honor does, and that they work closely together. So I joined conduct. And just immediately loved it.
We worked with outreach to students about student rights and responsibilities, we worked running student conduct panels from, you know, anything from alcohol violations to more serious things that warranted permanent dismissal from the school, and worked really closely with the dean of students office and had a really great experience working with Mark Weston. And I worked less closely, but sometimes with Dave Gilbert. And yeah, just felt like I was doing things that actually kind of mattered for the institution rather than just a group.
00:51:00 I think that’s why I stayed involved with that and engaged with that one particularly for so long, because it really felt like an opportunity to change things about the school that I didn’t like.
Yeah, and then as far as the club lacrosse, I really missed sports. And then two of my best friends were on the team, and they were saying that there hadn’t been a goalie for like a season and a half, and that was getting really difficult. And they were like oh, you’re kind of sporty, right? Like yeah, just come to practice on Tuesday. So I did and then I went back and loved it. Made some good friends, learned a new sport. It was a, you know, stress outlet, for sure. Yeah, I think those were the main groups.
Carmen: The only prerequisite was being sporty?
Kyle: Literally. That was the exact phrase. You’re sporty, right? You want to come to practice on Tuesday? Sure.
Carmen: Why did you choose to row just your first year? Did something happen or change?
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, like I think that I was looking for a group like that was all my best friends in high school were on the team, and I really love being a part of teams. And it was always an outlet. And so I was looking for that kind of group, and I didn’t really find it. I had been rowing for almost four years at that point, was a captain at my high school and was on the varsity team there, and so I came here and was excited to get moving.
And it was the first and only year that they ever instituted this rule that regardless of experience you came in and you started in the novice boat. So it’s novice and then varsity. So it was like eight people who had never sat in a boat or touched an oar before, which sounds really self-indulgent and really better than thou, which is just like so not the case. I think I just really missed…like I wanted to get into the actual racing and practicing together.
00:53:00 And I had been, you know, in crew you get assigned a seat in a boat, and that’s kind of your group, like that’s your core and you work with them a lot, and you see them every day, and you develop a rhythm, and you get to know the way that they work really well. And I had kind of hoped to jump into something like that, and it was just like the opposite. I didn’t feel like I really got much out of it as far as the sport in the first semester.
And then we had winter conditioning, which, you know, is just hard to convince someone in college to get up at 4:15 during the season, 5:15 out of season to go to the rec and work out. That was trying, for sure. And yeah, it didn’t end up being the friend base that I thought it was going to be. I made a couple of friends and acquaintances that were lovely—well, all lovely people, but it just wasn’t the same chemistry that I had looked for in a team before.
00:53:58 So my roommate and I, like one night before conditioning it was supposed to be like 35 degrees. It was 2:00 a.m. We were still doing bio homework. And she was like, we have to be up in three—we hadn’t even gone to bed—she was like at this point, if we went to sleep right now, we’d have to be awake in three hours to go to conditioning.
And we both just kind of panicked, emailed the coach and quit the team, in like 35 seconds of being like we can’t do this anymore, this is miserable, like I’m going to quit, are you going to quit? And we just bailed. Was that acceptable? Probably not. And is that how you work on a team? Absolutely not.
I would have been horrified if it hadn’t been just like immediate stress that made me quit. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was lazy and the fact that I just needed to sleep more. So yeah, nothing catastrophic, it just didn’t end up being the thing that I valued and missed while I was here.
Carmen: Sure. Sleep is important.
Kyle: Yeah. Yeah, it was.
Carmen: It’s not laziness. You were up until 2:00 or whatever studying. That’s legit. What was the coach’s reaction?
Kyle: She wasn’t happy. But at that point—so that was the other thing. It was like we didn’t get to work with the varsity coaches. Our coach was a senior who had been on the team, got hurt her junior year, and so was just kind of like still wanted to be involved, and they’re like oh, you can coach the novices. So she was also a student, and I think she was un-amused with the lack of effort that we had put in.
Also my freshman roommate, that is like the most in shape person I know, swam varsity all through high school, actually turned down an appointment to West Point to come here and was going to swim at West Point, was like, you know, she’s just like so in shape and so dedicated, and so determined, and I could just go on for hours about her.
00:55:53 So she was by far the strongest and had—like in the off season you row on rowing machines and you do tests on them and they take your scores. And her scores were far and away better than anyone else on the novice team, and better than most on the varsity team. And so I think the coach was pretty sad to lose her, just like pure strength-wise.
And I was the only one that had ever been in a boat, so technique-wise was also pretty annoyed to lose me. So two out of two was not thrilled. I think she took it in stride, but she was also like a second semester senior, so I think she was like all right, this doesn’t matter to me at all. She’s like do what you’re going to do, I’m going to keep coaching and it’s going to be fine. So, you know, could have been worse.
Carmen: Wow. Okay.
Kyle: Yeah. Yeah. My parents were not as happy as they could have been.
Carmen: Did it feel like a weight lifted for you, thought?
Kyle: Oh, my god, yes.
Kyle: Yeah, tremendous weight. You also, like, you know, we went to Tennessee for Halloween weekend my freshman year for regatta, right, so you miss the whole bonding experience that is Halloween in college, right?
00:57:04 And we drove like 14 hours because our driver, who was another student, got lost. Five people in a little sedan, plus all of our stuff. So I sat in the middle with my bag on my lap for 14 hours driving to Chattanooga, Tennessee for a regatta. We rode one day, lost, turned around and came back the day after. [Laughs.] It was just like this is exhausting. So you just lost like whole weekends, and every day was immediately in the morning, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Carmen: Yeah. That sounds completely understandable. I’m glad you felt relieved to not have to do that anymore.
Kyle: I did, I did. I got my life back.
Carmen: Oh, wow. Okay. [Laughs.] So you attended William & Mary during an incredibly interesting nationwide, worldwide time. And I think history will look back on this time as an incredibly interesting, contentious period of time.
00:58:06 So how did you see some of the nationwide or worldwide sociopolitical issues that were going on during those years affect the campus or you personally? And that could be anything from same sex marriage being legalized and upheld in Virginia, shootings in Orlando, terrorist attacks around the globe, the election of Donald Trump as the United States President, or any other things. How did you see those play out?
Kyle: So for your first one, yeah, same sex marriage being legalized in the U.S., I was abroad during that point. I was in Cadiz in Spain. And we had a couple of out kids in our study abroad group, and we just went for it. We went out and had a great time.
I got home to my host mom, who was incredibly conservative, and she’s sitting at her kitchen table watching it on TV, because there’s always a TV in the kitchen in Spain, it’s always on. And so my roommate and I got home, because we were six hours ahead, so we didn’t get the news until we were out of class.
00:59:01 We got home at like 2:00 p.m. so it had just happened here. And her mom was a circuit court judge in Texas, so she had performed the first marriage of like this 88-year-old gay couple in Texas, and was just like so excited, and sent a picture to Juliet and I, and we were like so happy, and everyone in our group was happy.
We come home and our host mom’s sitting at the table sobbing because this is the moral ruin of America, and she just could not have said more about the moral ruin of the country and the world and the whole thing. We’re like you are Spanish. This has been legal here. You’re behind on the times, my friend. But yeah, that was just fun. We went out and had a good time.
As far as the rest of it, I mean, like it just inspired a lot of campus activism. Like, you know, episodes of police brutality and, I mean, just racism in every form of the word.
01:00:03 And yeah, the election of Donald Trump. I went…you know, voting was like, it was the first election I ever got to vote in, and I went with my friends, and it was like a social activity. We all met and went to—you vote at the…we all voted at the church on Jamestown Road. And we were so excited. And I got our “I voted” sticker, and I literally have a saved Snapchat of myself and two of my friends. And it was like “just voted for the first female President of the United States,” like pumped about it, so excited. Because we’re such an insulated campus and we were all like oh, of course she’s going to win. This is the greatest thing ever.
Like we had viewing parties. Like the whole campus had viewing parties the night of to watch Hillary be the first female President of the United States. And so I had lacrosse practice, and we all had different meetings and whatever. And we all got back and sat in our living room, turned it on on Casey’s computer, and we had, you know, chips and drinks and the whole thing.
01:01:00 And like as the night wore on, like as it became clear she wasn’t going to win, like we just…like the whole mood of campus just kind of settled. And, I mean, like two of my roommates were like yeah, we’re going to go to bed. We know how it’s going to end and I don’t want to watch it. And the other two of us stayed up and watched it and just kind of sighed, and didn’t really know how to take it, and we went to bed.
And, you know, there were reports of harassment of students of color on campus. Men were driving around in trucks with, you know, Trump-Pence flags and screaming things at students. All over social media is, you know, like super polarized. I’ve never been in like a, I don’t really do the social media thing. I had never been in an argument on social media.
01:01:57 And I just, I took the bait on one girl’s post that referred to this as like it’s better than Christmas morning. And I just lit into her publicly in front of all of our mutual friends. And she wrote like 15 paragraphs in response to my one sentence about like…yeah, it was not great.
I went to class. We had a…it was an older British professor. And he just kind of looked at us and he was like, “now you know how we felt with Brexit.” We were like that was incredibly insensitive and also not the same thing. [Laughs.] And it was my 11:00 a.m. class, and Hillary’s concession speech was going to be on during the class, and it was a government class. And we asked him to watch it and he said no. So some girl like three rows in front of us turned it on on her computer and no one listened to what he said, and we all just watched the closed captioning on that. It just, it was miserable, like all day, and for months after.
01:02:59 And like, you know, all of campus really just took on a very different feel after that. Especially knowing that, like, you know, I had never thought about like okay, like different political stances as being markers of you as a person, right? Like oh, like we’re cordial, and I want to have a conversation with other people, and I want to understand where everyone’s coming from.
But I had a really tough time not, like—you know, there was a kid who was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat to class every day that people wrote about in the “Flat Hat” or whatever, it was around somewhere. And like god, I just felt like I want to hit that kid. Like are you kidding me? Like do you have any idea what this means to people who are not straight white men? Like it’s astounding. It changes everything. You’re going to roll back protections for women in the workplace and same sex couples, and people of color, and like oh my god, you just don’t understand what this means.
01:03:57 Yeah, it was an interesting time to be on campus, for sure. The general tone was incredibly negative regarding that. Inspired a lot of activism. And then, you know, I’m still here, so I was here when he decided to roll back DACA protection and say that they were going to, you know, they started just mass deportations of undocumented people.
Just like all of the horrible things that he said he was going to do that people that voted for him were like, oh, well like he won’t take my neighbor, or like he’s not going to take my Social Security. And you’re like, well, no, he is. So like watching him…just like, you know, watching people vote against their own self-interest and then watching him follow through on all of his campaign promises that are just as hideous and horrible as he said that they would be, yeah.
Carmen: Yeah. Is there anything that came out of that election—I don’t want to call it positive or negative—but any response that’s been lasting to his election that you see on campus?
Kyle: I mean, I think it got people that wouldn’t consider themselves political to realize that, like, not being political is a position of privilege. Like I wouldn’t have called myself inherently political. Like I didn’t really follow anything, like local elections or even like…so like nothing in Virginia state legislature really ever crossed my path. I wasn’t government, so I didn’t really follow anything. I didn’t know who my Congress people were.
And like how ignorant that is is just astounding to me, and I just can’t believe that I lived my life not really knowing what was going on, or like who was in charge, or who was making decisions that impacted my life. But if nothing else, it dragged people like me, who weren’t gov majors, to realize that like hey, this does matter, and like I will vote in everything. Like give me an opportunity, I’ll vote.
01:05:55 According to Donald Trump people are voting twice. Like sure, let me vote twice. Like I will vote in everything now. And I know who my Congress people are. I have called them, I have written them, and I am just… I think it had the opposite effect of what he had hoped would happen, was that like you have brought people like me that didn’t know that they were going to fight tooth and nail with government to fight tooth and nail with government.
So if nothing else, it’s created a more impassioned, more informed electorate, because I think a lot of people that just like voted for Hillary because they knew that he was a bad idea didn’t understand why it was so important to vote for Hillary. Or people that voted for him that are now like ooh, that wasn’t a great idea, like if anything else, if nothing else comes out of this, at least some people are more informed.
Carmen: Sure. And Kyle’s set on the loose.
Kyle: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Not slowing down any time soon. I will make signs, I will show up at your house, I will scream until I’m blue in the face. I can give you a recommended reading list.
Carmen: Perfect. Oh, man. So we’re going to transition now to your time post William & Mary, which is odd in and of itself, since you are still here. But post a student at William & Mary.
Carmen: Because we’re coming up about on a year from that point, which is wild.
Kyle: Yeah, it’s crazy.
Carmen: So how have you so far seen your time at William & Mary or your education here play out in your life?
Kyle: Wow, that’s interesting. So as far as academically, the work that I’m doing now is directly related to the work that I did as a student. I work as a Mosaic Fellow with William & Mary libraries, and I’m working on our Cuban media project, and I started working on that as a junior. So essentially, in the classroom everything. Like I’m still using all of the readings and writing and everything that I did undergrad to inform that job.
01:08:06 As far as like just in life, I’ve taken a lot of the patience and professionalism and drive and things that I learned here and put those into use in the rest of my life, and that’s been good, too.
Carmen: So you mentioned that you’re a Mosaic Fellow. Can you speak a little bit to what you believe to be the value of the Mosaic program?
Kyle: Yeah. So I’m one of the first two Mosaic Fellows. The point of the program is to increase diversity in libraries. It was started as part of the diversity plan brought forth by the diversity committee through William & Mary libraries. And it’s to give people of traditionally underrepresented backgrounds experience in libraries and higher education.
01:09:00 So I really kind of lucked into this. It was working in the libraries, which I was already comfortable with and excited about, working with Professor Stock and Troy Davis in the media center to keep working on the Cuban media project that I’ve been really super passionate about my whole time here.
But as far as the intrinsic value of the program, I think it serves a really unique need to diversify a specific subset of academia. If the goal is to diversify academia as a whole, there is not a better way than to do it ground up and start looking at how individual organizations can better staff those organizations to promote and draw in diverse members. So why would you expect people of color to want to go charge into a library where 80% of staff is white?
01:10:01 And like the whole point is to show people, everyone, that libraries are a place for them and that academia can be a place for them to carve out space, really.
Carmen: Is there anything you want to expand on on your personal experience with the Mosaic program?
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, it’s been, like it couldn’t have been a better job for a year out of graduation. It has informed my career path down the line. I’ve made some amazing friends. I’ve had a really wonderful experience existing in the real world, whatever that means, before going to graduate school. Yeah, I mean, I don’t have a lot more concretely to say about that. I can speak to the day-to-day work a little bit if that’s what you’re interested in. But yeah, I mean, it’s been a really great experience on the whole.
Carmen: I’m just interested in your perspective on it. I have no ulterior motive here.
Carmen: So you made a comment about it, but what has this transition from student to staff been like, and how has it challenged or complicated your perspective of the college?
Kyle: I think it’s been really good for my perspective of the college. I was tremendously burned out at graduation, and even the thought of staying here was really exhausting because I really worried that the staff position would feel the same as it did as a student. Like I was really worried that the culture would feel the same as it did as a student. And it does not at all.
And I think that this is why there’s a disconnect between the stress culture of faculty and staff and the students, is I think that there’s a broader sense of community, but there’s also like, you know, like so many safety nets as far as like if I have a question, or if I need help in X thing, or I’m failing here, or want professional development doing something else, or want to learn a new skill, like I can go to any of these places and everyone is so calm and willing to talk it through, or willing to help me, or willing to point me in the right direction.
01:12:07 And so I didn’t…like the transition period, like in the first, I think I would say, two, two and a half months was just kind of about figuring out how to let go of that feeling of needing to work to the standard of rigor that isn’t how anyone should work for the rest of their life. Like no one should be doing things the way that undergrads here are doing them forever.
So I really think that it’s been invaluable as far as helping me figure out how to be productive and how to work hard without overdoing it, without burning out, without making myself miserable. Also it’s just been a really awesome way to kind of take a step back, take your foot off the gas a little bit, and recharge.
01:12:55 I’m doing things that I really love with professors, and faculty and staff that I really love, and just kind of taking some time for myself for a year to re-acclimate to not being an undergraduate.
Carmen: Sure. And on that note, you’ll be heading off to graduate school. So how do you see your time in education shaping that future academic and career trajectory?
Kyle: Yeah, I mean, if I took one thing from William & Mary’s academics, it’s that it’s not about being able to recite facts. Like I can…like the weirdest facts I can pull from my undergraduate education will never be relevant again. Like tardigrades are my new favorite animal. They’re called water bears, is their common name. And they are microscopic organisms that you can shoot into space, or light on fire, or compress, and they essentially go into this long state hibernation, and you can subject them to the most heinous temperatures and pressures and all these things.
01:14:00 And deprive them of oxygen, put them in a vacuum and all these things, and then you drip some water on them after that and they just come right back to life. It’s like these are things that I learned in biology, and like that doesn’t matter at all. Like I don’t ever need to know that ever again. Like I don’t need to know anything about half of the things that I learned. I can figure out, you know, if I throw a tennis ball off the roof and the wind is going here, I can figure out where it lands, but like it doesn’t matter.
I think what this place made me realize is that learning as an activity should never be something that you stop. And as far as graduate school, like I’m about to go be a professional student. So I think I learned, if there’s one thing that William & Mary prepared me for, it’s more school. So like I am really good at being a student, and I think that I will take the study habits and all of that, but just the understanding of the fact that learning can be a career is a pretty cool thing.
Carmen: Yeah, that’s awesome. So I just have a few more questions left, and they’re really reflective. What changes have you seen at William & Mary over the time you’ve been here, and what do you think about them? It’s very broad.
Kyle: That is very broad. So there aren’t a ton of things that come to mind. Culture, the student culture seemed similar. I continue to hark back to student conduct. I think that was where I saw the most changes. One of the things that I was proudest to have been a part of while being here was working to change student policy around driving under the influence.
01:15:57 So we have just had more DUIs on this campus than anyone should have anywhere. And you can’t drive through the middle of campus. You can walk anywhere. It’s teeny. So it is mindboggling how many DUIs the student body has. There were like 14 or 16 in the last, like my junior year it was like 16, and then it’s just never-ending. And it seemed at that point like everyone was driving drunk or high. And we just couldn’t figure out why.
And for the longest time the base level recommended sanction was probation with loss of privileges or probation. And driving under the influence is something that is, like it hits really close to home. I feel really strongly about driving under the influence being the most selfish, stupid thing that you can do. And so it always bothered me, I think, that you could drive at three times the legal limit and still just be on campus.
01:17:02 Like you’re going to jail, you are arrested, this is a big deal, but the school didn’t seem to… My thought was that the policy didn’t match the weight of the situation. So I worked closely with some of the other members of student conduct and with two of the deans of conduct for like a year and a half to draft policy and rewrite, and rewrite, and rewrite and rewrite to change the base level sanction to suspension for at least a semester.
Essentially trying to draw the hard line of like if you do this, you’re going home, and it’s not going to be something that we have accepted on campus. And then what was great is after we did that, then I got to work primarily on outreach to tell people that that was now the policy. And it was fulfilling to see that your peers understand why the policy change has been made, and also like oh, you’re right, like I probably shouldn’t have gone to cookout, or I shouldn’t have done X thing.
01:18:04 And now that I understand, like I won’t next time. And so obviously I’m not working in that anymore and I’m not really sure what the longstanding impacts, if any, there will be, but that was the one thing that I had hoped to see changed or have some influence over a change.
Carmen: That’s major. So you’ve spoken a little to this as well, but are there any changes in particular you would like to see in the coming years?
Kyle: I don’t really think other than what I’ve already kind of covered.
Carmen: Okay. So we’re in the midst of a celebration, coming to the end of the year, actually, for the 50th anniversary of African Americans in residence at the college. Considering the purpose behind the celebration, what do you believe to be the value of diversity and inclusion on campus and even more broadly?
Kyle: Great. Yeah, I think what it comes down to for me is like in one of my Hispanic studies classes someone, I can’t remember which professor, pointed to a phrase that has really stuck out for me, and it’s “history is written by the winners.” And a lot of times the winners aren’t the people that won fairly.
So much of this school has happened on the backs of people whose narratives were never included. Like slavery at the college was not something that was ever talked about, or discussed, or thought about widely. And I talked about it in one class. Like you erase the history of people that went into building this institution without a second glance.
And we only have, like we talk about the names of the three women who were the first African Americans in residence, and that’s amazing, and I pray that the student body knows their names now.
01:19:58 But they don’t know the names of everyone that came before them to build what we have today. And so I think the value intrinsically is how can you have history, how can you have an institution and not represent all of the voices. It also just makes you better, right?
Like the whole point and one of the things that colleges are supposed to do is to challenge, and make you think, and make you expand your worldview a little bit. And if all we have are narratives from white men dating back 300 years, how does that challenge anyone’s narrative? Because that’s the only narrative, that’s the dominant narrative in the United States. So trying to change that or make additions to that retroactively helps create history, but it also helps heal the people that you left out.
01:20:56 Like all those people that have been here, and have been working here, and have never had their names known, or have never had their work acknowledged, it’s the absolute least we can do to go back and try and fix or amend anything retroactively to include them. And even if that doesn’t happen until after they die, like that might heal a little bit of hurt in their families who see the work that they did, and who see everything that they’ve put in like starting to be acknowledged. And it’s a shame that it has taken until 2018 for some of that to happen, but there’s no way to move forward without trying to heal some of the damage, and also trying to make it clear that we are a place for everyone.
Carmen: Great. Thanks. And so we’re also about to kick of a celebration for 100 years of coeducation at William & Mary, so can you speak a little bit about the value and contribution of women at William & Mary and beyond?
Kyle: Yeah. I mean, like some of the most influential professors in my whole life, and mentors have been two women professors at the school. Frankly, I didn’t know that the 100th was coming up as a student. I had never thought about it. I had never heard in classes about coeducation starting here. Like it just wasn’t something that I had ever heard brought up in passing or even like in a presentation or anything.
I mean, as far as contributions, look at all the faculty that have done everything. Look at all the alumni that have gone on to do incredible things, and doctors, and lawyers, and we like to look at Jill Ellis and Glenn Close. Like okay, awesome. They are doing amazing things, that’s true. But we had someone who was the chief scientist at NASA, and Congress people, and CEOs and all of those things that are women from William & Mary that we just don’t do a great job of broadcasting.
Carmen: Great. So at this point I open it up to you, and this is the broadest question of them all because I’m just, this is the time for you to talk about anything that you thought I would ask that I didn’t or that you would like to talk about, anything else at this time. Kyle free-for-all.
Kyle: I’m not sure. Yeah, I mean, I think this place has given me a lot and I am a lot of who I am because of the experiences that I’ve had here, and I’m really grateful for that. There are a lot of things that I think need to be addressed at an institution level that I already talked about. Yeah, is it perfect? No. But I have really appreciated my time here. I don’t think I have anything else. Sorry about that.
Carmen: That’s fine. This is one good last chance to tell any crazy stories from those fun four bar activities if you want those on record.
Kyle: I think I’ll pass on that one. Thank you.
Carmen: Well, then with that, thank you for participating. This has been wonderful.
Kyle: Thank you so much.
01:24:15 [End of recording.]
©William & Mary Libraries. Acknowledgement of William & Mary Libraries, Special Collections Research Center as a source is required.
Non-Commercial Use/Fair Use
Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries welcomes non-commercial use and access that qualifies as fair use to all unrestricted interview materials in the collection. For more information about fair use, see William & Mary Libraries guidelines here.
The researcher must cite and give proper credit to Special Collections Research Center. The preferred citation is as follows:
[Interviewee name], interview with [Interviewer name]. [Interview date], [Name of Collection], Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.
Example: Powell, Michael K., interview by Carmen Bolt. June 12, 2017, 50th Anniversary of African Americans in Residence Oral History Project, Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries.
For commercial use of any sort, including reproduction, distribution, derivative works, public performance, and public display that goes beyond fair use, the researcher must obtain written permission from SCRC by contacting SCRC by email here. Permission will comply with any agreements made with the interviewee, interviewer, or donor of materials. This permission is valid only insofar as Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries, as owner or custodian of the material, has any rights in the matter. This permission does not remove the responsibility of the author, editor, publisher, or broadcaster to guard against infringement of any rights, including copyright that may be held by others. The researcher must cite and give proper credit to SCRC. SCRC reserves the right to refuse the right for commercial use.
For most unrestricted interviews, copyright has been assigned to Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries. When the copyright has not been assigned to Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries, copyright is retained by the interviewers/interviewees, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
SCRC works to uphold the obligations and legal commitments made to interviewees, interviewers, and donors of material. Some interviews have restrictions imposed by the interviewee, interviewer, or donor; restricted interviews are clearly marked. In such cases, it is the researcher’s responsibility to uphold the restriction appropriately and completely. Researchers may, for example, be required to obtain written permission from the interviewee or interviewer to quote from the interview. Contact SCRC with any questions about restrictions by email here.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual’s private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary Libraries and William & Mary assume no responsibility.
If an interview has been transcribed, researchers should quote from the transcript. If no transcript is available, reference to material in the interview should be taken from the audio recording.
For preservation purposes, use of audiotapes or videotapes will require production of listening or viewing copies. If a researcher requires the creation of a listening or viewing copy, the researcher will be responsible for the cost. For more details about audio/visual reproduction policies at the SCRC at William & Mary Libraries, contact the SCRC by email here.
If you are in need of any accessibility accommodations that require the creation of a listening or viewing copy of material, please let us know prior to your visit. You can also find information on the library’s accessibility services here.