BY SABA FIAZUDDIN ’21 AND FALGUNI BASNET ’21
Mount Holyoke’s Building on our Momentum (BOOM) conference that was held on March 26 and 27 featured a number of sessions reflecting on Mount Holyoke’s efforts to be diverse, equitable and inclusive. One of the workshops led by Acting President Sonya Stephens was titled “Mount Holyoke in the 21st Century,” and featured group discussions addressing community concerns.
One of the issues raised regarded a rumored policy affecting the housekeeping staff. It was believed that, according to this policy, housekeepers at Mount Holyoke College were not allowed to communicate in any language besides English.
“This policy was brought up by a student who had heard through the ‘grape vine’ that this was a policy,” said workshop attendee and Chair of Halls Francesca Eremeeva ’20.
This piece of information prompted a strong reaction from students who felt it was unjust. “It just didn’t seem fair to housekeepers whose mother tongue isn’t English,” said Mathilda Scott ’20, who was also a participant in the workshop.
Others also shared Scott’s view on the topic. “Since the conference, the reactions I have heard from students have been only negative,” said Eremeeva. “Students think it is wrong to ban speaking a language people feel most comfortable in.”
Despite the initial concern, “it was never confirmed at the conference if this is an actual policy,” said Eremeeva.
The origin of this rumor misinformation is unclear. Heidi Friedman, executive director of Human Resources, emphasized the fact that no such policy exists within the housekeeping department at Mount Holyoke. A housekeeping staff meeting on April 27 was held to clarify this policy and avoid further confusion. Friedman said, “Mount Holyoke’s policy has always been that housekeeping staff can communicate to each other in whichever language they choose, but they have to communicate to the supervisor in English because that is the official language at [Mount Holyoke].”
Friedman also added that the housekeeping staff is free to raise any issues they have with the policy to the department.
“I’m a little concerned about this spread of misinformation,” said Scott. “[It’s important that] students get the full picture [so] student activism can be used in the best way possible to make this campus the most inclusive place for students, faculty and staff.”