I Am Not A Delicate Flower

By Julia Behnen '12, Contributing Writer When I was still deciding on a college to attend, I had several reservations about Scripps. One of the biggest was a subtle feeling that I could only articulate in the following way: the school felt more like a resort than a college. Obviously, I came here anyway, and I am very glad I did. I have enjoyed the quiet dorms, the clean campus, and Wednesday afternoon tea. Unfortunately, we have a problem. The best way I can explain our problem is through Humans vs. Zombies.

I have been playing Humans vs. Zombies (HvZ) for the past several semesters. It is my favorite college activity. But up until this semester, the game was banned on Scripps’ campus. Though Scripps students were allowed to play on the other campuses, no play was allowed on our own turf. This meant that while all the players from the other schools were getting chased back to their dorms by zombies, Scripps players were free to wander to the dining hall without any worry. It also meant that other players were discouraged from coming to Scripps because it was considered cheating, thereby isolating us from players at the other schools.

This system created several problems for me and other Scripps players. Like many Scripps students, much of my daily life is spent on the Scripps campus, and there was often no reason for me to leave except to put myself needlessly at risk of zombie attack. This meant that when the special night missions happened, no one took most Scripps players seriously. We were coddled; we were sheltered. We were given a free pass to live through each day and get to the night missions. My commitment to the game was trivialized because I was a Scripps student, but I didn’t blame the other players. They were right—I had an unearned free pass. There was nothing complex about it. To try to fit in with the rest of the players, I felt like I had to play differently than I might otherwise: play later, taunt louder and make fun of my school’s policies whenever I needed to. I had to prove that I was worthy of the game.

I’m writing about this because it epitomizes what I see as the “delicate flower” problem of Scripps College. According to our website, we are a school that is proud of our strong and bold students: “Students who thrive at Scripps are women with independent and adventurous spirits, active and curious minds, and healthy appetites for both hard work and fun.” Yet there is a fundamental disconnect between the proclaimed school ideal and the way we handle ourselves as an institution. If we are independent and adventurous, then why did Scripps students receive an email in spring 2011 warning us of the game, implying that we might faint at the sight of men armed with Nerf guns?

This email is of particular importance because it was not brought to my attention by a fellow Scripps student, but rather by a male CMC friend of mine who had apparently gotten a copy of the email and found it interesting enough to save. During a discussion on this topic, he forwarded me the text of the email with the preface, “I don’t know if I can ever forgive this.” Though I’m pretty sure he was joking, and I understand the need to alert students to strange zombie-related activity on campus, both of these incidents speak to the larger problem we have here.

Though I believe it is done unintentionally, Scripps policies and attitudes encourage isolationism. We value our quiet and clean campus, and this sometimes takes precedence over social activities (the alcohol policy is an important subject in this matter, but that will have to wait until another time). This would not matter if we were not a women’s college in a consortium. If it were just us, we could do whatever we liked. But we are not alone, and we cannot act as if we are. The other schools pay attention. And though my friend’s message did not mention gender, it is a factor we cannot ignore. As “the women’s college” in the consortium, everything we do will inevitably be reflected back on our nature as women in the perception of the other colleges. It’s unfortunate but true. We are not yet in a post-gender society; there is fighting yet to do in the battle for full equality.

So to the Scripps administration, I say this: I believe you are doing your best to create a safe and nurturing college experience. Like I said, I love tea. I love my quiet dorm. I came here because I thought a women’s college would be good for my intellectual and emotional development. And so far, I have been very pleased with what I’ve experienced. But we as a school have work to do, and I do not envy the balancing act that you have to perform between maintaining the quiet college feeling of Scripps and encouraging women with “independent and adventurous” spirits. You have taken an excellent step this semester by allowing HvZ on Scripps campus, and I deeply thank you for that. It is time to continue to reassess our policies and our behaviors as a school to make sure that we are not perpetuating a stereotype of our students and women in general as delicate flowers. We are so much more than that, and it is critical that the other schools see this.