Dear Mills College,
I’m sad to see you close after 170 years. Attending classes on your campus with a diverse group of women from all over the world my first year of college was important in how I see the world and how I see myself. I’ve written four drafts of a farewell to you, but grief slows my fingers on the keyboard and blurs my eyes. I was 18 when I met you. Sight unseen I had committed to attending, believing a woman’s college would allow me to better academic confidence and focus. That fall my dad and I flew out to San Francisco, rented a car and drove to Oakland. Once we entered the gates of Mills, the wooded campus and the classic Spanish style architecture impressed us right away; white stucco walls with ceramic tile roofs. We wound our way past Mills Hall, which was administrative offices now although once it was the entirety of the college. Over a creek and up a hill Dad drove and we found Ethel Moore, my new Spanish style home. The RA (in red pants next to me below) showed us the dorm room where I would study, listen to music, and sleep. My dad carried my suitcases up, then we hugged goodbye outside. I thought both of us were going to cry. Maybe we did, a little.
I underestimated how alone I would feel. All the women I met in the dorm were nice, and we ate our evening meal in the special dorm dining room that night. Three dozen of the eighty residents were first year students. We introduced ourselves at dinner. Soon we were talking and laughing. The RA sat near we new students. We bantered about why we chose a girls’ college. The RA gently corrected that Mills was a women’s college. Did the terminology matter to me? Not right away, but its importance grew for me over the year. We were women. Why say “girls” if that puts us down?
My social education continued at Mills; students were diverse in their ethnicities, orientations, nationalities and religious backgrounds. In conversations with Tiffany, an African American woman in our dorm, I learned that friendship is only the first step. It is important to be an ally in dismantling racism. Likewise, I learned to offer not only friendship, but solidarity and vocal support to women with a different orientation from mine. These friendships were important in forming who I am.
My dorm friend from Southern California was key in teaching me about study groups. Three of us “Forever Moores” were in the same Biology class, learning about genetics. In our review, we would ask each other practice questions using flash cards. I was not remembering the answers. When it was my turn, I couldn’t explain the difference between RNA and DNA, or what alleles were. We worked until midnight. I felt like I couldn’t retain any more information. After sleeping on it, we took the test the next morning. I was hoping I’d recall more after our study group and answered the best I could. The results were posted the next afternoon. Amazingly, I had my best score for the class so far! At dinner our study group compared grades. My friends we furious with me. Impossibly, somehow I had managed to score one point higher than they did. That couldn’t be true! The next morning I heard little mice in the hall outside my door. Once I was dressed for the day, I opened the door but couldn’t see out through the layers of toilet paper! That was the funniest prank anyone’s played on me.
I’ll miss you Mills; your eucalyptus groves, your small classes, your awesome breakfasts, the choir and drama classes, swim team, the fabulous art class, Spanish conversation class, the biology project discovering a bird’s territory by his song, the red eyed fruit fly experiment that flew away, learning about deciduous trees, female solidarity, knowing women can do anything, and the woman that I am. –Rebecca
How would you feel if your school or college closed suddenly?