For my American Political Thought class, we’re reading a book called “The Handmaiden’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood. In this dystopian novel, the U.S. has transformed into a theocracy called the Republic of Gilead, a restrictive regime in which fertile women are kept as slaves. Not to get too far into a summary, we were asked the question in class if Gilead, that dystopian society, could ever really transpire in the U.S. Understanding, historically, that social orders are capable of drastic change, I thought that it was probably possible.
Last week, the Torch published two letters to the editor from faculty and alumni that spoke to this very question. Not necessarily about whether the U.S. would transform into Atwood’s dystopian society, but about what keeps, or else leads, a society in the other direction. As we all know, Witt’s Health Center recently joined in partnership with Community Mercy Health Partners (CMHP). The partnership has created some concern about the accessibility of contraceptives, reproductive health care for LGBTQ needs and what that means for students on campus.
The letters by both faculty and alumni raised serious questions to the university’s leadership about timelines, providers and facilities concerning reproductive healthcare. They also raised questions concerning CMHP’s policies and values, but more importantly, they delineated how those values contrasted with Witt’s values, as well as the ELCA’s. They then “implored” and “called on” the administration to reconsider the partnership.
When I read the letters, and all the signatures listed, I was touched. It wasn’t just because the content was about contraception or reproductive health, either. It was the obvious care — that they would take the time to draft a letter and risk whatever backlash. The faculty and alumni were advocating for current students and the students who would come after us. They didn’t just complain.
They spoke out in accordance with what they thought was right, and I hear the administration is speaking back.
I don’t know what the results will be. But I wanted to thank them, faculty and alumni, for their gumption and for saying something. It was care-filled and brave. This is how we keep things like Atwood’s Gilead from happening in our communities. We argue, speak up, push back, call on and implore. On this campus, we may very well have varying ideas on reproductive health, but at least we can agree (I hope) that putting our ideas out there when it really counts is something to celebrate.