The day following Donald Trump’s inauguration millions of people participated in protests across the globe demanding equal and reproductive rights for women. A group of over 45 DePauw students, faculty, and community members traveled on a bus to in Washington, D.C. to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.
After the Women’s March on Washington was covered by large variety of media outlets DePauw students expressed an interest and held conversations about attending the large scale protest to faculty members. Matthew Cummings, Assistant Director of Spirituality, Service, and Social Justice at the Harman House, an office of community service, social justice, and spiritual life, communicated that their offices often receives student concerns and requests to attend conferences and seek their own professional development.
After Cummings released information on DePauw’s website the trip reached capacity of 40 students within 24 hours. “We met capacity within eight hours of being advertised on Facebook,” responded Cummings in an email.
Cummings and his other staff members in the Hartman House gaged student interest and and performed a price and benefit analysis after a high demand to attend and participate in the protest.
“The Women’s March said on their website it was non-partisan, so it’s not like we are supporting political components, but our goal is to support student interest for student engagement,” Cummings.
Safety was one concern for groups traveling to Washington, D.C. and participating in protests across the country. The Hartman House staff worked diligently and tactfully to organize departure and arrival times as well as emergency protocols, including a safe meeting space at the Library of Congress.
Christina Krouse, Hartman House office manager, and Cummings helped plan student logistics prior to the trip including purchasing metrocards, food, and first aid supplies.
The Hartman House helped organize and provide monetary funding the trip and organize all trip logistics for individuals in the DePauw community who wanted to travel to Washington, D.C. and participate in the march. The funding for this trip came from multiple resources including the Hartman House alternative spring break budget.
DePauw students paid 25 dollars for the entirety of the trip for transportation which was charged to their student account. Members of the DePauw community paid 50 dollars for their transportation.
“Close to 70 percent of the funds come from non-budgetary, endowed funds,” said Cummings. “The other part of chunk of change comes from the revenue we charged students and faculty and staff and another large part of it comes from the budgets that are allocated to our university,”
Cummings stressed the importance of students participating in civic duties and encourages students to learn how to be active citizens practicing democracy prior to graduating from DePauw. “My goal is to connect students more to practicing and participating in the democratic system,” said Cummings.
DePauw students and community members began practicing democratic freedom after gathering in the Hartman house to create signs, and banners prior to leaving Greencastle, IN. On Friday night, Jan. 20, the bus departed from DePauw University at 7 p.m. and returned to campus only over 36 hours later.
After a 12 hour bus ride through the night sleepless students, staff, and community members were ready to rally in a sea of over 500,000 thousand participants.
On the bus Cummings and Krouse passed out pink headbands which read, “DePauw United Against Hate,” and buttons for participants to wear at the march. The pink headbands were unique but became unrecognizable in a mass of participants wearing pink hats and accessories.
Early Saturday morning students preparing to march reflected about their choice to participate in the Women’s March on Washington.
“I am here [Washington, D.C.] to stand in solidarity not just with women, but for everything this election season has worked to demolish in a sense,” March participant and DePauw senior Jessica Tilley said.
First-year Giselle Villeges chose to participate in the Women’s March on Washington for the women in her family who came before her and her children who will follow.
“Being a daughter of an immigrant I grew up with all these stereotypes and being a first generation college student has helped me prove stereotypes wrong and it’s a continuous thing to change perspectives and stereotypes so being here is important to me,” Villeges said.
DePauw students, faculty, and community members had a difficult time navigating the streets of Washington, D.C. amongst other attendees prior to the start of the march. Participants were instructed to begin marching in the barricaded streets near the capital at 1 P.M. However, due to such a large crowd the original route of the march was altered and participants dispersed from the main stage to on walk on alternate routes amongst thousands. After spending a day in Washington, D.C. DePauw students and community members reconvened at the John F. Kennedy Stadium where the bus was quickly loaded and then DePauw bound.
Despite several logistical inconsistencies in Washington, D.C. no arrests were made and every DePauw community member returned safely to Greencastle, IN early Sunday morning.
Cummings affirmed that he trusts DePauw students will take notes and reach out to the Hartman House or other DePauw offices increasing the number of students promoting and practicing democracy, saying “I am hoping that students can come back to campus and continue practice democracy and students with other interests and ask, what about us, can we do this?”