The importance of accessibility in education

How writing a senior project can provide knowledge to others

Madeline Bruce

I’m writing my senior thesis, a semester-long project condensed into a 20-page paper and one-hour presentation and defense to a board of faculty members.

I think this week it hit me how big of a project this is and how little time I have to complete it. At first glance, it seemed like I had all of the time in the world. An entire semester is a long time, right?

Wrong. When you factor in how many steps there are in the research process, how much reading goes into producing a paper of quality content and sound arguments, and how much time it takes to complete everything needed for a successful project, an entire semester feels like the equivalent of two days.

I love the topic I chose, which was inspired by a documentary I watched for another class — because when am I not doing classwork in my free time? — called “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry.”

In the documentary, the history of the women’s movement is highlighted through the experiences of those who lived it, and at the forefront of the film’s narrative is second-wave feminism. That is, the feminism of the mid-20th century.

Several groups rose out of this wave of feminism, and one that piqued my interest during the film was W.I.T.C.H., or “Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell.” Sounds menacing, right? Well, that’s their goal.

The group formed on Halloween of 1968 and led protests in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. protesting everything from capitalism to women’s gendered role in society.

Most notably, it led a protest on Wall Street in 1969, in which group members dressed up in full witch garb – everything from the pointed black hats to black cloaks — and placed a “hex” on the financial district to protest capitalism.

The original W.I.T.C.H. group disbanded in 1970, but with the election of Donald Trump in 2016, it resurged in Portland, Ore., in 2016 and now has more than 50 groups across the United States.

In my thesis, I get to analyze the rhetoric behind W.I.T.C.H.’s actions. Basically, I ask why its members do what they do.

Why do they dress in all black? What is the meaning behind their protest on Wall Street?

Is there a rhetorical basis behind their formation on Halloween of 1968?

What about how they answer questions at protests?

I have to remind myself of how exciting this all is. I know I sound like a nerd — or worse — but analyzing the intricacies of human rights groups and movements makes me excited to write a 20-page paper. I guess that’s the English major in me.

In the initial stages of my research, I realized how difficult it is to find genuine artifacts and information from W.I.T.C.H.

When the group was first formed, its members composed a manifesto. That manifesto would be a great primary resource for my project. However, it is not easily accessible.

We need to pay more attention to groups like this and document their history so that it is easy for generations ahead of us to find.

Why isn’t W.I.T.C.H.’s manifesto easily accessible? Because the white, cisgender, straight men who frame our history don’t care about it and don’t want it to be easily accessible. It’s the same reason that most of what is taught in compulsory history classes is that of white men.

Though writing my thesis might be time-consuming, anxiety-inducing and stressful, I’m not just doing it to complete a major requirement.

I’m doing it so that I can document the history and rhetoric behind a women’s rights group that is overlooked, and so that its history is made easily accessible to others.

Accessibility is key to education, and the thought that I’m playing a part in that makes completing this project a little less daunting.

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