Roshni Kakaiya ’13

"Creating Spaces"

May 18, 2013

To my fellow classmates, the strong and resilient students who are sitting in front of my today, I want to share with you a conclusion that I have come to in our four years together. We, as a collective group, are exceptional human beings. Here at Scripps, we have left legacies. We have changed policies, saved lives, developed friendships and relationships, changed minds, and challenged new perspectives for other students and professors. At Scripps, we do not live in an idyllic bubble where we have our lives served to us on a golden platter. We fight for our rights, we fight for our grades, we fight for our friendships, for our relationships. And every day, we fight to prove to the world how incredible we truly are. And you know what? If there is anything that I have learnt in my past four years, it is that Scripps students will never stop fighting.

I circle back to this statement: Scripps students are exceptional human beings. Before we even arrived on campus we were exceptional human beings. Due to the economic and social hardships of the recession, 2008 was one of the most difficult years to apply to colleges in the US. A record of 33 million students applied for admission at American universities, which represents the highest number of applicants in the history of the US. We, as a collective, embodied the struggles, confusion, anxiety, and excitement about applying for and eventually making a decision to attend a four year university. We had never met each other, but on some greater level we had all already connected because we had chosen to come to this space. We were already a community of exceptional human beings, and our four years had not even begun

The word “community” has always fascinated me. It is something that I threw around a lot while applying to colleges and listing important characteristics to my future institution of choice. However, I don’t think I truly understood what a “community” was until I came to Scripps. A community is when you walk into the Motley and instantly see several people you know, when your friend calls out to you from her balcony when you are walking to class and you end up having a five minute screaming conversation, when you can gather over three hundred signatures for a petition to support a fellow classmate, A community is when you and 143 of your classmates can dance and rEvel in the beauty of our bodies together, in a safe and beautiful space. A community is when a group of students study for a final together instead of competing with one another in solitude. A community is the respect with which we treat each other in our dialogues, in our confrontations, and in challenging one another. Here at Scripps, we have created a global community, a community made up of incredible women from all over the world whose ethnic and national identities span borders, languages, religions, and traditions. At Scripps, we have created a community where we can look around the space we live in and say that we have made memories here, that we have left our mark.

Over the years, no matter my audience, I have always found myself defending my choice to attend a women’s college. In the beginning of my four years here, I would always explain, “Oh no it’s not really like a women’s college because there are co-ed colleges all around us,” as if this presence of a co-educational institution somehow validated my choice. After a little while, I then I started a game out of it. I would tell people that I attend a women’s college and then would try to read their minds to predict their response. Let me frank with you, mind reading is not on my resume nor will it ever be, but I did find that the most common response was, “Oh, well your Father must be so happy!” When this happened, I would normally nervously laugh and look away while changing the subject, but what I truly wanted to say was this: Why yes, my father is happy. My father is happy that his child is attending an institution where we are encouraged to speak up, to be critical of how we have been socialized as women, and to stop apologizing. My mother is happy that her child has passions, hopes, and dreams that have been realized and will continue to be realized in the future. My brother is happy that his sister can challenge him in ways that he never dreamed imaginable, and that he can go and similarly challenge and influence all of his peers. The people who we love and who love us have seen us grow, flourish, and burgeon into spirited, passionate human beings who are PROUD to attend a women’s institution. Now, my response is much different. When I tell people that I attend a women’s college, I say it with obvious pride in my voice. I tell them that this has been the best decision that I have ever made in my life, and that I have no regrets.

I do recognize that there is no way that I could encompass the experiences, encounters, and opinions of my peers with regards to their experiences here at Scripps. For this reason, I encourage you to share your own stories. Why do you identify as a Scripps Student? What led you here today and what will you take from here on out? Why was attending a women’s college valuable to you?

If I could name the one idea that Scripps has taught me, it is the value of taking up space in this world. At Scripps, we take up space. We take up space in the Claremont Colleges, we take up space in our classrooms, we take up space in the Motley, in the library, and in the dining halls. We take up space online, commenting on newspaper articles and forums, posting on instagram and twitter, and writing fan fiction. We take up space in the academic sphere by publishing research, writing short stories and poetry, by creating art out of paints, acrylics, charcoal, lens, our bodies, and our inspiration. We take up space by fighting for our rights, by challenging the status quo, by starting revolutions. We take up space in student government, in The House of Representatives, and as CEO’s. We take up space by creating spaces that are safe for ourselves and our peers, and honoring the need for these spaces.

To all my peers, I have no doubt that we will continue to take up space in this world. I look around and am continually impressed and humbled by the greatness all around me. When I first stepped onto Scripps’ campus, I looked up to my tour guides, panelists and overnight hosts in admiration and inspiration. I wanted to be each and every student that I interacted with, and that feeling has not left me during my entire time here. I am honored to share this space with all of you.

At this moment, I want to honor your struggles, because these struggles have truly been the most transformative process during our time here. I want to honor our struggles, because in these struggles comes a resiliency and strength unparalleled by many in this world. We have struggled to fit our academic choices into the neatly lined pages of the Major Declaration form. We have struggled being the token women of color in our classes, the token Scrippsie in our off-campus classes, and the token queer student in our binary-perpetuating, heteronormative straight classes. Yet we have rejoiced when we finally found that group, that community, that friend, or that professor who just…understood and was able to help us come to terms with our own experiences and place within this institution. We have struggled to save our flex until at least after our first midterm. We struggled initially to conform to the “idea” of what it means to be a Scripps woman only to realize that it’s way more fun to break out of that box. We have struggled with the screeching ring of the library closing bell. We have struggled to negotiate caring for our own mental and physical health and safety on these campuses. In these four years, we have STRUGGLED.

However, in the face of all these struggles, I also see multicolored, flashing strobe light at the end of the tunnel. We, as a collective, have triumphed. From pulling all nighters to finish our first Core paper to successfully FINISHING our theses, we have come a long way. Additionally, we have learned to always stock up with food and caffeine before an all-nighter, because at 3am, dinner will seem like eons past. From picking up all these little tips to fully comprehending some of the bigger concepts like synthesizing compounds, writing an ethnographic paper, or time management skills, we have learnt our lessons. These lessons, both academic and non-academic, have carried us throughout our four years here. I recognize and honor the struggles that we, as Scripps students, have faced, with the full understanding that these struggles are what define us, because they are the source of our strength. We have learnt what we are willing to fight for, what impassions us, what angers us. Regardless of our future paths after graduation, we all have our own clear path. This path is marked not only by the obstacles that we have overcome, but also by the clarity, agency, and resistance with which we will live our lives in the future, because this is the value of a true Scripps Education.

Here, in this moment, I honor you. I honor your journey. I honor your uniqueness. I honor your sacrifices, what you have loved and what you have lost. I honor the memories that you have made and will carry with you throughout your life. I honor the resistance and strength that you have cultivated during your time here. I honor you. I appreciate you. You are essential to this campus, this community, this space. You are essential to Scripps.

Before I end, I want to acknowledge the great sacrifices that our families and our loved ones have made to support us in our decision to attend this institution. We would not be here without the support of those who we love and who love us, and it is a great honor to be a part of such an incredibly supportive community. Additionally, we feel the presence of our friends who will not be able to walk with us today. Their absence today does not mean that they have been any less important or influential to Scripps. They too have left their marks on this community, and have changed the herstory of Scripps.

I want to end with a quote from Audrey Lorde, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

To the incredible human beings sitting in front of me today, I dare you to be afraid. Embrace the struggle, the changes, embrace the inevitable hardships and the empowerment that will follow. Embrace your vision, because you have been given the tools necessary to make that vision come to life. Please know that wherever you end up in this world, there will be another Scripps student who is a part of this community who will be cheering you on. Please know that you have changed Scripps forever, and that the world will never be the same once we are released into its willing arms.

Dear “real world:” Get ready. The Scripps Class of 2013 is taking over. And there ain’t no goin’ back now.

Thank you very much.

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