Fall 2018 Featured News: Hispanic Studies

Hispanic Studies at the 2018 Summer Research Showcase: Declassifying Videla’s Argentina

Monroe Research Showcase (cropped)

The Monroe research grants allow students to explore anything that interests them. For many, it is a way to start answering a question that came to them in class. For nearly all who undertake a project, we end the summer with more questions than we started with. Last week, we all came together to discuss these questions and conclusions at the summer research showcase.

My name is Jo Weech, and I am a junior here at the College. I am a Monroe research grant recipient and a Hispanic Studies major. I chose to use my Monroe grant to make my involvement with the National Security Archive research team possible.

William & Mary has been running a research internship with the Archive for several years. Students attend weekly classes with a Hispanic Studies professor, Silvia Tandeciarz, and an expert from the Archive, Carlos Osorio. All of the work with the Archive’s documents is done remotely via digital databases. To begin the internship, we first learned about the Cold War and the last Argentine dictatorship. We then started working with the documents.

Those documents we were working with involve declassified diplomatic cables from different U.S. agencies. Our job was to try to find evidence of human rights violations, as well as piece together a history of what happened. Our research will begin again this coming spring semester. I was able to complete this research while studying abroad in La Plata, Argentina. It was especially meaningful to be able to read about events happening and then to be able to go and see where they actually occured. One of the moments of repression we discussed with the research team was La noche de los lápices (The night of the pencils), as an example of violence against students. Below is a picture that I took in La Plata of benches painted in dedication to those student victims:


For me, the research was especially important because it is related to the work that I see myself doing after graduation. I hope to find a career that will promote human rights, possibly as a Foreign Service Officer. The tools and opportunities that the Hispanic Studies program has already given me will be instrumental in finding that career. I hope that my involvement with this research project will be long lasting, as we are writing a history that needs to be written.

Fall 2018 Featured News: Hispanic Studies Uncategorized

Moments of Activism: Student Movements and the 100 Years of Women Weekend

To commemorate 100 years of women at William & Mary, the university hosted the first-ever W&M Women's Weekend September 21-23, 2018. In events throughout campus that included panel discussions, keynotes and an opening performance by Anna Deavere Smith, attendees discussed big ideas, learned from one another and enjoyed growth opportunities in the eight dimensions of wellness: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, professional, physical, social and spiritual. (Skip Rowland '83)
To commemorate 100 years of women at William & Mary, the university hosted the first-ever W&M Women’s Weekend September 21-23, 2018.

The 100 Years of Women weekend gave students and alumni the opportunity to reflect on the role of women in the history of this campus. From the first Dean of Women to the induction of our current female President, women’s voices have been an integral part of William & Mary.

The Hispanic Studies Program at William & Mary teaches far more than just Spanish language and culture. One thing that many students take away from it is a growing passion for activism. From historical case studies to discussions of contemporary social issues, the program encourages active listening and engagement. This engagement is taken outside of the classroom and into the world.

This summer, a Hispanic Studies student decided to engage more directly with her school’s past through research. Jo Weech is a current Hispanic Studies and International Relations double major at the College. Her areas of focus include human rights work and education. Using the 100 Years of Women weekend as an opportunity, she researched the history of student protest and activism at the school since the introduction of women in 1918. This research was shaped by tools she learned from her Hispanic Studies courses; tools in deciphering memory, historical narratives, and archival records.

Although William & Mary is a historically conservative campus, it does have a rich history of student activism and protest. One of the main outlets used to voice social movements was the student paper, The Flat Hat. From reading past Flat Hat articles, as well as other newspapers, Alumni Gazette editorials, and oral history transcripts, this activism becomes clearer. Initially, most student movements were focused on internal issues of the College. Tensions have been present for years between the Board of Visitors, faculty, and the student body over issues of admission. The admission of women in 1918 was controversial. Supported broadly by students but not by as many alumni, coeducation may not have occurred if it wasn’t for low enrollment after WWI. Later in the 1950’s, the issue of admission was brought up again with changes in admission standards. In the 1960’s, they were brought up again alongside the racial integration of the College. They have continued to change under our more recent presidents, as well.

Changes in institutional policy had ripple effects among the student body. Students have written editorials for and against admission policies as well as policies for new athletic programs, construction plans, speaker events, chancellor appointments, and student resources. They have organized sit ins, silent marches, vigils, and speeches. Although initially rallying for issues internal to the College, William & Mary students have also engaged with national movements, such as Civil Rights and protesting the Vietnam War. Much of the most recent activism on campus gives voice to issues that the institution has been struggling with for decades.

Why is it that activism is not more actively remembered in our campus history? With many alumni present on campus for the 100 Years of Women weekend, Jo had the opportunity to speak to former students from different periods of the College’s history. She found that many of these women did remember at least one active demonstration taking place during their time here, if not more. But it took some remembering for those demonstrations to come to mind. For many past and current students, activism may not be at the forefront of this campus identity; however, it is a part of that identity–and it is one with a long legacy.