Students Establish Women of Color Plus Coalition to Advocate Change on Campus

6 min read

Caitlin Doherty ’26

News Editor

Trinity’s Women of Color Plus Coalition (WOCC+) publicly launched on Wednesday, Jan. 31 with an announcement on the organization’s Instagram page @ trincoll_wocc. Founded by eight members of the class of 2026 (Nicole Ankrah ’26, Izabella Bautista ’26, Makayla Cervantes ’26, Cydney Hunt ’26, Linnea Mayo ’26, Maribel Mendoza ’26, Shreyasi Oli ’26 and Rajsi Rana ’26), the group hopes to create a space of solidarity and improve the often alienating campus environment for women of color at Trinity. “There isn’t a women of color space on this campus, and we would benefit so much from it,” stated Mendoza in an interview with the Tripod. “Once you bring up these issues and put them out, even in front of ignorant people, it’s starting a conversation, and that’s what’s really needed.”

Plans to start this coalition began as a lunchtime conversation between friends one day in October of 2023. “We were just talking about our experiences,” said Oli in a Tripod interview with four of the WOCC+ founders, who all emphasized feeling alienated and overlooked in classes and social settings because of their identities as women of color. “People don’t realize how real and pervasive [racism on campus] is, especially when you’re not looking at a world outside of your self,” reflected Ankrah. White peers they share classes with “wouldn’t acknowledge us,” Oli continued. “Saying ‘hi’ to us would be a political move for them… We have classes with people, we see them consistently and we have had conversations. They don’t say ‘hi’ to us, but they will say ‘hi’ to our white counterparts in the same setting.” Cervantes, another leader of WOCC+, recalled the day she spent tabling for La Voz Latina at Bantam Welcome Weekend, when admitted students are welcomed to campus. During the activities fair event, all of the cultural organizations were put on one side of the Long Walk, while sports teams and other groups were placed on the other side. “People would just completely pass us by knowing that this area [of cultural organizations] isn’t for them… It made that divide so real, that Trinity doesn’t see these parts of campus as cohesive [with the rest of the college community].”

“This is not the campus we were promised,” stated Oli as the four women discussed how Trinity’s campus climate was advertised to them when they were applying and preparing to attend the college. Frequent discussions about tensions and disparities they continually experience on campus led to the first meeting of the Women of Color Plus Coalition in November of 2023. In the months following, they have met weekly to establish the organization and discuss specific actions to “hold events aimed at raising awareness and uplifting the realities faced by Women of Color, challenging campus norms, and addressing inequalities specific to these women at Trinity College,” as stated in their mission.

One of WOCC+’s current initiatives is planning a pre-orientation program for members of the incoming Class of 2028. “I never had any illusion that I was going to be someone who fit in here,” said Oli when reflecting on her transition to Trinity. All four founders that were interviewed expressed feeling unwelcome and alienated almost immediately after arriving on campus for their first-year orientation. During her senior year of high school, Ankrah participated in Bantam Bound, a fly-in program for students of diverse backgrounds which aims to introduce students to life at Trinity. “They marketed Trinity as this very diverse, dynamic campus,” she said. “I left genuinely thinking that this campus was set apart from other colleges that I’ve seen and toured and heard of. But being here and seeing that’s not exactly true was definitely very disheartening.” After committing to Trinity, she decided to attend two pre-orientation programs: P.R.I.D.E., which welcomes students from underrepresented communities to campus, and Venture, which aims to foster women’s leadership on campus. Participating in Venture, which was very predominately white, it was clear to her that the program “only represented one group.” She was drawn to Venture because of its supposed focus on women’s involvement and networking on campus; however, she felt it only emphasized the race and class disparities she would come to experience throughout her first-year at Trinity. “I just felt very alienated… I remember being self-conscious the entire time.

Because of her experiences in P.R.I.D.E and Venture, Nicole hopes to lead a pre-orientation program with other WOCC+ leaders that would celebrate the intersections and unique experiences of participating students’ identities, rather than requiring them to “choose.” The WOCC+ founders stressed the severe lack of intersectionality on campus; every day, they feel they must decide which identity they will embody depending on the social environment of the space they are entering. “Being marketed as the woman of color in a group, or the woman in the group, or the person of color in a group, it’s hard,” stated Oli. Cervantes expressed regret for not attending a pre-orientation program before starting at Trinity, which is why leading this initiative through WOCC+ is so important to her. “I think I would need something like this program [as a first-year],” she said. “Understanding that my presence here is valued… Not only is my identity as a woman of color important and substantial, but also that I’m more than that.” Dean of Student Life Dr. Jody Goodman, the Coalition’s faculty advisor, and Director of the Bantam Network and Residential Experience Sheila Copperthite ’17 M ’19 are working alongside the students to plan this potential pre-orientation program, which will support new first- years who are women-identifying people of color.

On March 29, WOCC+ will have its first event, a kickoff dinner in Hallden Hall. The event will be a part of Trinity’s Women & Gender Resource Action Center’s annual Women’s ‘Herstory’ Month event series. The leaders of WOCC+ anticipate that this dinner will be the first step in creating a strong, supportive network of students and faculty who identify as women of color on campus. “I really hope that this space that we’re planning and curating is an opportunity to connect for any woman on campusthat’s ever looked at another woman and thought ‘Wow I really want to be her friend’ or ‘I’d like to get to know her better’,” Ankrah reflected. “We never get the opportunity to exist in a space all together, so this is the time, this is the chance.”

The Tripod acknowledges that many members of WOCC+ are also writers/ editors on this publication, and ensures that this story was reported and written with this in mind to maintain fair coverage.

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