- Eric Santomauro-Stenzel
Inside Hamilton Activists’ National Movement: The Reproductive Freedom Protest
Updated: Jun 25, 2022
This article is a long-form investigation to tell the story of this movement born at Hamilton. This piece is the result of interviews with over twenty people and closely following RFP since The Monitor first heard a protest was being scheduled.
By Eric Santomauro-Stenzel
Additional reporting by Madison Lazenby
To address concerns we have received in conducting research for this article, I would like to make clear our intentions with publishing this article. As a social justice paper, the Monitor stands firmly on the belief that every person needs to have access to free abortions on demand without apology. Further, we cannot consider ourselves to be part of a true democracy without bodily autonomy from the state. With all of this in mind, we also have duties as journalists to draw attention to when people have been harmed, even and especially in organizing spaces. This duty and our support for reproductive freedom and justice are not mutually exclusive. I hope that this article—drafted over several days’ worth of work—will inspire campus conversation on various people’s roles in movements and the various other issues that it brings up. As always, we are happy to receive critique, feedback, fact-checks, and letters to the editor. You can send those to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Madison Lazenby, Editor-in-Chief of the Monitor
On Thursday, May 5th at 5pm ET, students at dozens of colleges and universities across the country gathered to oppose the recently-leaked draft decision from the Supreme Court overturning the case guaranteeing Americans’ right to an abortion, Roe v. Wade (1973). The Reproductive Freedom Protest (RFP) began as four students in their dorm at Hamilton College angered by the Monday, May 2nd leak and expanded to dozens of protests at schools ranging from more than half of fellow New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) schools to Harvard, Yale, Brown, UC Berkeley, Georgetown, and many more. RFP describes itself as, “College students fighting to halt the overturning of Roe v. Wade and defeat anti-choice legislators.”
RFP mobilized thousands of students across the country in less than 72 hours. This impressive feat garnered national media attention and put dozens of students at different institutions in contact with one another, building a network of reproductive rights activists. As it is increasingly expected that Roe will be overturned by a packed right-wing Supreme Court and federal judiciary system, the result of decades of maneuvering by a Republican Party representing the views of a small minority of the country and their allies, RFP’s role could continue to be at the center of national youth organizing for reproductive freedom.
How It Began
The movement began within hours of the Politico leak in Bundy Residence Hall at Hamilton College. Marvin Lopez ‘23, Dewayne Martin ‘24, Evelyn Molina ‘23, and Allison Sheehan ‘23 first saw the leak during a closed session of Student Assembly (SA), of which they are all members. Immediately, the four close friends began discussing the need to do something. Sheehan explained, “After the meeting [the four of us] got together in Marvin's room, and we were all talking. Everyone was like, ‘What the fuck?’ Dewayne has a lot of experience in organizing and he was like, 'Guys, you know, if we're all super riled up about this we can do something, we have the capacity to do something'... I feel like that is where the spirit of the protest definitely began, it was in that room.” No one could yet imagine what would become of this conversation.
Martin described the feeling of hearing about the leak. “It was dystopian. Of course, intellectually, we understood that this could be possible. And we understood with the packing of the courts that something like this would happen. But to see it in the headline was absurd. I had a lot of emotions.” The four decided to take action and begin to plan a protest.
At the suggestion of Lopez, Martin soon reached out to Jhoana Flores ‘24, co-chair of the Center for Intersectional Feminism (CIF), to loop her into the organizing of the protest. This soon transformed into a larger meeting that continued past midnight and gathered more members of CIF’s Executive Board (E-Board). In a statement to the Monitor, CIF said members of their E-Board were participating in the organizing as individuals rather than on behalf of CIF. Only hours after the organizing discussions began, the size of the group organizing had doubled.
The morning of Tuesday May 3rd, outreach efforts began in earnest to create a national protest movement. The primary group chat grew exponentially, first with Hamilton students and then with many other schools. Dozens of Hamilton students would eventually join some or all of the group chats. At Hamilton, Ryley McGovern ‘25, who was recently elected his year’s Class President for SA after serving as a Class Representative, was added to the chat early in the process alongside many others. Noticing that when he joined the chat no Black women and only a few other women of color were present, he added his friends Nevaeh Gutierrez ‘25, Shi-Anne Morgan ‘25, Leslie De La Rosa ‘25, and Isis (Icy) Riviere '25.
McGovern explained why he chose to add these specific students.
“I’m not as educated on this as other people I knew, which is why I took the route of including people I knew who are more educated about this in the conversation. Nevaeh is one that I knew for a fact would bring a lot to the table, they all brought a lot to the table, but I knew at that time Nevaeh was working on a paper regarding stuff like this, so it just made sense for me to include people like her.” He added, “They all share a demographic as women of color that has often been silenced or pushed to the back and I think to make this movement different from others that doesn’t need to happen. Their voices should be amplified… that’s who should be at the forefront.”
Gutierrez, who is Chicana, agreed with this reasoning in her speech at the Hamilton protest days later. “The current white feminist gaze of the women’s rights movement has overly dominated narratives of reproductive rights and does not adequately address the unique concerns of people of color.”
Outreach to other institutions occurred both via personal pre-existing relationships between students and by sending messages to campus organizations whose aims may align with RFP. Oge Ogbogu ‘24, a Harvard College student organizer and writer, joined RFP after being contacted by Martin, whom she had met at a debate camp years prior. She joined because, “I had been reflecting on everything that was going on. I didn't really know what to do. I knew there was a rally that was happening on campus—it happened the day before the national movement—so I went to bat and people were still energized, people were still trying to figure out what to do.”
Ana Flood ‘25, a member of the Connecticut College Feminist Coalition, received a direct message (DM) from CIF on Instagram inviting her organization to a Zoom meeting about RFP.
“After the zoom meeting and a brief conversation with my fellow founding members of the Connecticut College Feminist Coalition, we decided to join the cause and further strengthen the nationwide movement. We, as the CCFC, wanted to lend our support to the RFP because we understood that our positionality here in Connecticut allows us certain privileges that will not be awarded to others in these terrifying times of the possibility of Roe v Wade being overturned.”
Anika Seth ‘25, a Yale College student who has been involved in reproductive justice organizing both at Yale and in her home area of the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia (DMV), joined RFP after being encouraged to join by a fellow Yale student who was associated with Men4Choice (M4C). Seth was excited to join RFP because, “I think protests are great, especially at the scale that we have them with [RFP]—that's great—and a really important way of showing just how passionate Gen Z is about this kind of stuff and showing our leaders that we're not going to take these things without a fight.”
Speeding Away from the Starting Line
With the rapid growth of RFP came some confusion and several internal disagreements, some of which became public at Hamilton’s protest and an SA meeting the week following. Most of these concerns were related to the prominence of cisgender men in decision-making, discussion, and media representation, along with issues related to trans inclusionary language usage and tokenization of the most marginalized people involved. Several Hamilton students expressed in interviews with The Monitor that, though organizers had good intentions, they felt when they raised these concerns with the most prominent and involved organizers the response was inadequate, defensive, and/or to ignore them. Martin and Lopez, both cisgender men who were often named as the root of these problems in interviews with those who raised concerns, expressed that they felt they had addressed these concerns constructively and in good faith.
The two said they were actively working toward addressing any remaining concerns by planning to restructure how RFP is run. “If there's something that I would like to say to the student body, it's, please criticize me and, and please email me those criticisms. Find me, because I genuinely do care about the fact that we are about to lose the rights to control our own bodies,” said Lopez.
Students at other institutions who spoke with The Monitor were generally unaware of these specific critiques and felt RFP had been a welcoming, supportive space for them, though some said that if criticisms have been made they ought to be addressed. Flood said, “I would say that based on my limited experience with the national organizing process, as myself and the other founding members of the CCFC felt that our work would be most impactful if we focused majorly on what we could alter on Conn's campus to ensure abortion access was easily accessible, I would attest that I don't have a solid enough basis to make that type of critique.”
One of the first of these concerns arose when, shortly after being added to one of the organizing group chats on Tuesday, May 3rd, Gutierrez raised a desire to change the name from “Reproductive Freedom” to “Reproductive Justice” and provided a link to a page about reproductive justice on SisterSong’s website, an organization whose mission is “to strengthen and amplify the collective voices of indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights.” SisterSong defines reproductive justice as, “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
Martin, who is a Black cisgender man and an intern for M4C who previously participated in their 10-week fellowship program, responded to Gutierrez, “For this particular action, I feel that the focus is clear cut. Roe v. Wade should not be gutted and this is a reproductive rights issue. The nuances are equally important but our focus now is to bring people in then teach them. I also agree that, at our 4pm [meeting], we should have a conversation about who is represented in this space and in this conversation.” He then attached an M4C guide on online communications strategies.
After Gutierrez asked why “reproductive freedom” was being used, Martin explained, “we were struggling to make a name last night” (the night Sheehan, Molina, Lopez, and he first planned the event) and added that “freedom is a term that attracts all folks to the struggle. Not everyone understands the language of repo rights/repo justice yet so instead of making people use inappropriate language, using the catch all term will ensure no harm is done and create the capacity for learning and spilling this collective labor into future actions.”
Gutierrez, dissatisfied with this explanation, said, “These are not nuances though. The separation of abortion as an issue to be worked on in isolation from the rest of the reproductive health agenda is a primary reason why WOC [women of color] chose to not affiliate themselves with such movements. Separation of these issues impacts my own personal life as I try to navigate what it means to be a brown woman where white women issues are at the forefront.” Some students emphasized Gutierrez’s message in support.
Group chat conversation shifted to other aspects of the organizing and Martin did not respond to Gutierrez in the chat again. The name remained Reproductive Freedom Protest.
In an interview, Gutierrez expressed that she felt this exchange was emblematic of a larger power imbalance in RFP between most-impacted individuals like herself and Martin and Lopez. “I kind of felt like he was just saying that that's just too much. And to me that signaled that he didn't care enough to center other people around a matter like this.”
She said Martin called her to further discuss her concerns, but that she did not feel the conversation resolved the issue.
“I'm leaving suggestions, and you guys need to be open to those suggestions. And I don't think they were able to receive feedback, and handle it. [Martin and Lopez] were kind of really defensive about their work.”
In an interview with the Monitor, Martin explained, “There was a very clear discourse as to why we call this reproductive freedom as opposed to reproductive justice… My response is that that is the incorrect way to characterize our work, according to Black and brown women who lead this movement. We are talking about including every single person in this movement. And for a white man or a white cis woman who's wealthy to call their work reproductive justice is a spite and sleight to the brown and Black women who have been doing this work for decades.” Asked how the decision to choose “freedom” was made, he said, “Everything was openly discussed in the group chat, and decisions were made” and explained that the final say for these decisions is for “The Black and brown women of this movement. Ultimately, the choice to name something ‘reproductive freedom’ was not an opinion.” He said that the framework of “freedom” was not his opinion, but an accurate description of the work RFP was doing and in line with the way the term is used by national leaders working on reproductive issues.
At 4pm that day, some of the Hamilton organizers had a meeting in Christian A. Johnson Hall (CJ) to prepare for the protest and discuss some of the ideas raised about the name of the protest and other proposals related to centering most-impacted people in RFP.
“And they did agree to discuss it, but then we didn't end up discussing it at that meeting. From my understanding, it was almost as though it was just forgotten. You know, about this recommending of changing the name,” McGovern said.
Gutierrez agreed, “Nothing really happened... I did not stay for very long, maybe like 20 minutes, because I was just like, there's no point in me being here.”
Soon afterwards Lopez, who is a cisgender Guatemalan man, called Gutierrez, “to hear her ideas out personally and clarify why we thought reproductive freedom was a more appropriate phrase to use at this time.” He explained to the Monitor in an email, “We continue to have conversations about the same subject now, and during my conversation with Nevaeh, I emphasized the type of work that collectively, RFP (all members of the larger group chat) had agreed to pursue at the time. The phrase reproductive justice specifically highlights the experiences of WOC and more broadly any POC affected by more nuanced issues within the reproductive freedom movement. It brings attention to the further injustices that exist within the reproductive freedom movement. The reason why we use reproductive freedom at this time is because we are referring to all of the work that different groups are doing around the country, which is not entirely reproductive justice. [Gutierrez] may call the work that she does within this movement reproductive justice, especially if she would particularly like to focus on that aspect of the movement. But reproductive justice does not characterize the work that everyone is doing in this movement.” In his interview, Lopez expressed he was open to “constructive criticism” on multiple occasions.
Gutierrez had a very different recollection of the call. “I get a call from Marvin, and he's decided to start basically yelling at me on the phone telling me like, basically what my problem is... My problem apparently was anything that he didn't agree with: me speaking in a feminist of color perspective, me saying that two cis men shouldn't be centered—very defensive rhetoric that he used. He just seemed very angry that anybody would be critiquing him to any extent.” Put off by this, she left the organizing group chat after the call.
Asked whether she felt Lopez and Martin were taking feedback constructively and working towards making changes in RFP, Gutierrez said, “No. In a heartbeat no, very easily. No. They haven't. I don't think somebody could change that very simply without starting over. People were already aggravated, people were already upset, myself included. And I think, even with them saying [at the Monday, May 9th SA meeting the week after the protest] that they are receptive to change, or they want people's opinions, it has never felt like that.”
Lack of clarity in communication and final decision-making authority was common, particularly among Hamilton students. Felix Tager ‘23, SA Treasurer and recently-elected Senior Class President who was endorsed by Martin, described the organizing environment as hectic. Having years of national organizing experience, Tager said, “I'd ask people for guidance on what to say or who to talk to on who's organizing this. Everyone would send me to somebody else, like it was never, never clear. I genuinely wish I could tell you the hierarchy of the organization. No clue... Nobody had set roles. All I know is that Dewayne was coordinating everything.”
Olivia Snyder ‘24, an RFP organizer at Denison University, said, “While I was not overly involved in national planning, I can attest to saying that it was confusing to put together. That being said, I can genuinely claim that I believe we did the best that we could. Having such an emotional upheaval being thrown at us and putting together RFP within two days is a testament to the commitment that we have to each other and our rights.”
Shi-Anne Morgan ‘25, a Black woman and one of the students added to the chat by McGovern, felt overwhelmed and disoriented by the flurry of messages in the group chat, and saw it as a barrier to her full participation. “I was just put into the group chat. And from there, it was just all over the place, because there was just so many people texting and not providing enough context for people they just threw in, so a lot of us were very, very lost.”
This sense of incomplete knowledge limiting one’s ability to participate in planning and decision-making was shared by others who joined the process after the earliest stages. At Hamilton, these students were disproportionately Black, brown, transgender, and nonbinary. Students who were privy to most planning discussions and had a more complete picture of the organizing had increased influence over decision-making.
Tager, a cisgender white man who was invited by Martin to join the process the first night, explained, “My main concern is that… we need to take stances that include everyone, right? And that means having every perspective accounted for in the beginning of our organizing at the root of what we're doing. If we're doing it as an afterthought, it means nothing.” Tager emphasized that he did not feel this exclusion was intentional and that all organizers had good intentions.
Sheehan attributed some of the concerns regarding inclusion and representation to the rapidness of the event planning. “We definitely wanted it to become so big, but like, it literally became so big overnight.”
Lopez agreed, saying, “There definitely were some voices that we unintentionally excluded, partially because of how much of a rapid turnout we needed to get things done... I think the way that I've kind of been framing it to people is that my intention, my goal is to set the stage, but then to allow anyone else to get on that stage.”
These issues would resurface throughout the planning and execution of RFP. All Hamilton students interviewed for this article felt that more directly-impacted individuals, especially Black people with uteruses, should have been brought into the process sooner.
Gutierrez did not feel the speed of the organizing process was a valid justification for this lack of core involvement by more marginalized people. Referencing conversations she had with Martin and Lopez on the issue, she said, “That was a bullshit excuse to me. Like, to me, that just told me that they didn't care enough because part of creating a movement like this is [that] the foundation of it has to be centered around people who are most effected at the forefront… And it felt like they were only including these voices after they had received feedback.” She noted that she felt they had good intentions in organizing RFP.
While some participants, especially those involved from the earliest stages, said decisions were made horizontally and non-hierarchically, this perception was not held by those further removed from the center of the work. The Monitor’s investigation found that RFP participants had a wide variety of ideas about who was “leading” the movement, ranging from SA, to CIF, to M4C. Consistently, however, students named Martin and Lopez. Martin’s involvement was central to both national and Hamilton organizing, while Lopez’s presence was most felt at Hamilton.
Most Hamilton students interviewed for this story pointed to Martin as the driving force of RFP. He facilitated most meetings and a press conference, sent emails to the group with next steps, directly checked in with many of the schools involved, spoke frequently in meetings, and more. Several students said they regularly deferred to him.
Seth described Martin as the leader of RFP, but noted the group still felt equal and open for discussion. “I think Dewayne is someone who is definitely doing a lot of work to coordinate all of us and make sure that the fire keeps going and then we're like still actively trying to do work. So I think we can call Dewayne our leader, perhaps, but beyond that, I think it's a very equal footing space, which I personally really like. I think it works out because we're all very passionate about the cause.”
Martin responded to the claim he is the leader of RFP saying, “I shared the vision, got folks involved, and continued to share the vision… I think the reason why I may be characterized that way, it's less so because it's like me being characterized that way. I just did a lot of work. And because I did a lot of work, people saw my face often because I was talking to them often. And when it came to facilitating things, I opened up spaces for folks to be included, opened up spaces for people to talk since the beginning. Actually, in our very first meeting, there were, like, three five minute pauses of silence, just for people to pop in and say anything they need, and initiate those spaces.” Martin also raised that most RFP organizers had little or no prior organizing experience and that he was intentional in sharing guides and resources with them to better equip them for their work.
Referencing one of the Zoom calls the group had, McGovern felt this space was not enough. “It's not a matter of giving someone an open call to say what they want. It's a matter of identifying those who are most qualified to speak on certain issues, giving them the most time, the most space, in the loudest voice.”
Lopez also expressed that the protest was intended to be organized non-hierarchically.
“I think another misconception that is kind of going around there is that we that we—we as in me, Dewayne, Allison, and Evelyn—that we sort of see ourselves as the leaders of this. I do not. I don't see myself as a leader, but I see myself as an organizer of the movement, but not as a spokesperson or as a leader of the movement.”
Corey Bravo Sloan ‘25, a transgender man who got involved with RFP later in the process, disagreed with this assesment.
“I'm not in the Leaders Group Chat because I'm a speaker and not a leader—but there are no leaders—but also there's a Leaders Group Chat… I was told by numerous lead organizers that there are no leaders, there are no lead organizers, there are just organizers. But there were very clearly people in charge: there were people that are talking to the press, there are people that are organizing the protest. And then there are people that are just speaking [at the protest]. And they were trying to make it as if that divide didn't exist when it very clearly did.” RFP planning occurred in several group chats of differing sizes and for different purposes.
Asked if he felt Martin had the most power in RFP, McGovern said, “If you have the connections, if you are the go-to person that if people have questions they go to you, then I think you have the most power. I think he would have the most power in this specific instance. Do I think there are other leaders? Yes. I think there are other leaders. But if there was ever a question or a big decision? Who would it go through first? I think Dewayne, and I think that says a lot.”
Sheehan had a more nuanced view. “I do agree that Dewayne was very central to a lot of the stuff that occurred. And I honestly will say it was because when we were in the room, he was like the galvanizing voice of it. He's part of Men4Choice [where] he's been doing a lot. He talks about it. I've been in there for meetings that he's had. I will say that that is an organization that Black and brown women have leadership in. And something Dewayne always says… is that the real leaders of the movement are Black and brown women.” She continued, “Something that I would like to see happen is more people being educated in organizing and making these connections so that we don't have to go through him to everything. I think that, at the end of the day, is what he wants, because we've spoken a lot about this because we're close friends… I think the fact that he was the one that got a lot of it started isn't inherently problematic.” She later added, “I don't think [Martin] is working from selfish purposes at all.”
Many of the guides Martin distributed were from Men4Choice. M4C is a national organization whose mission is to “unconditionally support the women and impacted individuals leading this movement by activating, educating, and mobilizing male allies into the fight to protect and expand reproductive freedom.” An Instagram post made by RFP the day before the protest regarding actions people could take if they were not able to attend in person encouraged applying for the M4C fellowship and phonebanking for SisterSong. In an interview with The Monitor, Martin said that though he is affiliated with M4C and was in contact with his mentors in the organization throughout the organizing of RFP, he was not working on behalf of M4C or compensated for working on RFP. SisterSong did not respond to a request for comment.
M4C Director of Youth Organizing Aaron Bos-Lun told the Monitor in an interview that there are two parts to cisgender men’s role in this movement. “One is to provide unconditional support. There's no role for any cis man to tell any cis woman or trans man or trans woman or as far as that goes, anyone else, there's no role for anyone to be telling anyone else what to do with their body in general.” He continued, “B is to recognize that you are not a leader, except among your peers. So like, when we show up to Planned Parenthood, we don't tell Planned Parenthood what they should do. We partner with Planned Parenthood, and we say, ‘you tell us what to do.’ And then our role is to organize guys.” There are two reasons M4C takes this approach. “One is that we're uniquely situated to do it. And guys listen to other guys in a way that, you know, speaks to how messed up it is. But it's just true. And then second is that men are not the most important piece here. So Planned Parenthood shouldn't have to focus on guys; that should be on us. And so we're there to do that.”
Bos-Lun, who had not met with RFP organizers other than some of those also affiliated with M4C, said that M4C was not an official partner of RFP and that “advising” would be too strong a word to describe the relationship. Rather, organizers used their training from and connections through M4C to grow the protest. He emphasized multiple times that M4C’s prerogative is to follow the lead of other organizations run by and for the most directly-impacted individuals in fights for reproductive rights.
Sloan was critical of M4C’s portrayal in relation to the protest. Referencing the Instagram graphic posted by RFP encouraging applications to the M4C fellowship, Sloan argued, “I was like, 'Well, how does that actually help?' That helps you more than anything and that helps Men 4 Choice—that doesn't actually help this movement.” His concerns, which would become a larger concern of his in relation to RFP, extended to M4C’s language usage. “I went on their website, and it was super like, not trans inclusive... the whole premise of like an organization geared towards men is not inclusive of trans men who do get abortions.”
In an interview, Bos-Lun responded to critiques about M4C’s language usage saying, “We've had an ongoing conversation about that since 2015 [when M4C was founded], including but not limited to, should the organization be called something other than 'men'? And something other than ‘choice’? And I think the answer that our founder and co-executive director has always given is, 'the day someone comes up with something better, we'll use it.' And the truth is, this has been the result of an extraordinarily long and detailed process.” He shared that the process “includes partnering with numerous organizations, virtually all of which are women led, I would say a majority of which are Black and brown women led, quite a few of which have an LGBT focus… And so this has been hammered out as a result of years and years of conversation with partners.”
“I would encourage everyone who thinks our language is not trans inclusive, to take a closer look at some of the materials because I would say, especially if you look at our starter kit, for example, it's about as trans inclusive as you'll find a national organization. And maybe it should be different, and we're always open to that conversation. But like I said, we work closely at the direction of those who have been doing this work for a long time.” He requested that individuals with questions or concerns about M4C reach out to him to provide feedback and engage in discussion at email@example.com. “If you reach out to me, I'll answer. Our goal is to build up the capacity of us to fight back against those who want to control other people in a way that isn't acceptable in this country.”
Seth found the M4C guides useful, but was still critical of the way in which the group centered cisgender men. “As an organizer, I think M4C does honestly have some pretty good toolkits for how to mobilize and protest. Even if I wasn't initially super gung-ho about the idea of an org that's called Men4Choice, I think they've done good work that's been helpful to me.” At the same time, Seth also noted that reproductive rights-related advocacy should focus on the experiences of people who can themselves get pregnant. “I think centering the voices of those who are most affected is really, really important.”
The criticism some students, particularly at Hamilton, had about the role of M4C in RFP was also extended to the prominent role cisgender men played in the protest in general. Sloan said that at first he did not know who the lead organizers were, but he could tell based on how it was being organized that it was not the people most central to the issue. “I could tell that this wasn't being organized by trans people, I could tell that this wasn't being led by women. And I could tell it wasn't being led by Black and brown trans people just by the way that they were talking about things.”
Asked whether she felt Martin and Lopez should take a step back from the organizing, Leslie De La Rosa said, “Absolutely. I feel like if they were to come and have a conversation with people and see and listen to the people who are complaining and understand why they're complaining, they would totally understand why all of this is happening. But because nobody is choosing to be accountable, or just be grown and have an open mind, it's derailed itself in many horrible ways.” She was tired of this “drama” between RFP participants and wanted it to finally come to an end so the group could focus on the work of fighting to protect people’s rights.
A Hamilton student close to the organizing of RFP since the early stages who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Monitor they felt these critiques missed the point. “I know people have critiques about us having a face for the protest and the fact it is a Black straight male. I am not necessarily bothered that there is a Black Straight male as the face of our movement but rather that there is a face that has been plastered onto our movement in the first place. As you may have noticed, most movements that do have a face plastered on it, do not go well. But again that was not intentional, rather it happened when people were sharing posts and writing articles putting a name and face to the protest.” They added, “We did not know how to organize, we needed a guide. And that guide was Dewayne, he had connections to people that some of us did not and had the experience of mobilizing people.”
From Ogbogu’s perspective at Harvard, the role cisgender men played in the protest was appropriate and uplifting to her as a Black woman. “I have not personally felt that my voice has been erased or pushed out in any way, despite not necessarily being the main person sending out emails or coordinating any of the conversations. My personal relationship with some of the leaders has actually been quite the opposite, in that I've been personally reached out to to come for the press conference [and] share my experience. Being a Black woman within the current organizing, as there's not too many Black people in it, which I think is an important perspective, I think that there is intense cognizance of being able to [make space] for those who have it. I think that if that were a concern, it would be a conversation that we would have amongst each other to figure [it] out.” She emphasized that cisgender men do have a role in organizing and should not stay on the sidelines.
Martin said of the criticisms made of him in organizing RFP, “I've been very intentional with every email, with every correspondence with every one-on-one meeting despite [catching] COVID [before the protest]. So this entire time I was in quarantine, right? Like, I was sick. So I'm trying to do all of this, while still trying to care for my body, while still having concerns at home. So it's like, I'm trying. I know that there may have been moments where I've fallen. But like, quite honestly, when you bring up empirical examples of what people are describing as moments that they feel excluded, when I describe the situation, and I show the receipts, it just isn't the case.”
In a public post Martin confirmed with the Monitor he made a few hours after the protest on Jodel, an anonymous social media platform popular at Hamilton, he defended himself against accusations that he was organizing RFP for attention. “I refuse to have my work framed as if I do what I do for myself. I have done repo freedom/rights work for the past two years and education organizing for the last five. Unlike the majority of you these issues of access are personal to me. I was raised in a poor Black queer matriarchy in the South. I have seen the direct impacts of this issue and a lack access first hand.” He continued, “The claims that you make on my name are unfounded and if folks were really interested in accountability an entire different conversation would be had. But you know what stories aren’t told. The fact that I haven’t slept in three days because I am so worried sick about this issue that all I can think about is action. That I have spent the last three days coordinating these national efforts. Making sure people have what they need to show up the way they need to on this issue. It has been me. This is not to undermine any other folks work because - if you ask these folks - I have been extremely adamant and clear about my position in this movement. This is not about face[,] for me these are real realities that 98% of you will never have to deal with. Now, if you have an issue with me, confront me. Anyone who knows me understands that I am a listener and a reasonable person that centers community and care in my work. I hope that y’all who have these ill framings of [me] would try to do the same. Y’all should also reflect on how your antiblackness informs the way you’ve dealt or viewed me despite the majority of yall’s liberal ‘anti-raicst,’ ‘radical,’ orientations.”
Lopez responded to criticisms in an interview, too. “I welcome those critiques. I recognize that I don't understand everything in this issue, but I care about the issue… I do agree that certain voices should be the primary voices.” Emphasizing that he felt cisgender men do have a role, he said, “Not all cisgender men are going to support this cause and this movement, but some might. And I think sometimes it's very easy to to block those perspectives by sort of saying, ‘because you are a cisgender man, you should not have any involvement in this whatsoever.’” He later explained, “I do hear the criticism. I do think it looks bad for cisgender men to have started this movement. And I hate saying ‘started,’ because again, I guess we set up the first meeting, which led to the starting of the movement.”
What to Fight For
As a national movement, RFP’s primary goal is to prevent the overturn of Roe. In a press conference after the protest, Martin said the goals of the national movement were threefold: make opposition to the overturning of Roe public and highly visible, building support at a state-level to remove anti-choice legislators from office, and show young people they are not alone in this fight and to encourage them to join the movement. He explained, “That means tapping people into organizations who are doing indirect or direct organizing with state legislators. We want to make sure that we are staffing statewide campaigns in whatever areas we have people in, in order to support the efforts of pro-choice candidates in toss up elections.”
Ogbogu expressed that, “Midterm elections are one of the elections that people's individual votes have a direct impact in comparison to a federal level where it still needs to go through a list of bureaucracy for it to potentially have an impact.” She emphasized that part of this state-level electoral approach is political education for youth so that they understand how meaningful their votes in local elections can be.
Hollis Mann ‘24, who is an E-board member of CIF agreed, “I think the midterms are especially crucial for students who I think for the most part, just don't see them as important as presidential cycles… especially at Hamilton, we're going to be in contact with organizations like HamVotes and Hamilton Democrats, who are already on the forefront of getting students to get out there and vote, to be registered to be active.”
RFP has not issued any candidate endorsements to date. However, RFP’s long-term role is still taking shape. Multiple organizers expressed that they did not want RFP to become an official organization, but rather act as a network and plug people into local work in their communities. At a secondary national level, Martin said the recruitment aim was to, “start funneling people into SisterSong, and we're gonna funnel pro-choice men on this issue into Men4Choice.”
Schools across the country set a variety of more localized goals, too. Catherine Sherman ‘25 of Wesleyan Reproductive Advocacy and Legislation (WRAL) said in a statement, “Our protest was mostly aimed at spreading awareness, generating conversation around the potential decision and reproductive freedom in general, and showing solidarity with victims of the harms of the potential decision and other schools' demonstrations. While we did not have specific demands, I think our goal of spreading awareness and encouraging others to join the fight was successful as we had a good turnout of students from a variety of places and a distribution of resources that will hopefully make a positive impact in spreading awareness and increasing accessibility to reproductive health services.”
Middlebury College’s Meg Farley ‘24, a student government vice president and a member of a number of social justice groups on campus, shared their goals. “My intention was to co-create a space to honor the legacy of Roe v. Wade and work to collectively understand where we go from here. We did not have specific demands/policies/etc… my intention was to hold space. We distributed resources but have not yet continued our collective action.”
Seth said that a group of Yale protestors demanded that the school clearly support Roe by publicly dissociating from Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who attended the school, and his anti-reproductive rights positions. Additionally, some students called for Yale to donate $100,000 to abortion funds. “I think it is true that the Yale name carries some weight to it; whether it should or shouldn't is a separate conversation, but it does. And so I think Yale has a responsibility to use its name to promote good and stand against evil perpetrated with the Yale name attached to it.”
Olivia Snyder, who is a member of Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources and Education (SHARE) at Denison Univerity said, “The goal of RFP at Denison was founded on hope. We had no demands for the University and avoided hostility. Truly, what we were looking to accomplish was to raise awareness and confront any confusion that resonated with the student body. By gathering together and facilitating dialogue, we demonstrated to the entire campus that this is a present and real issue that affects all of our lives. I believe that what happened during the event was highly successful, respective to our goals. The open conversation between students, some in leadership positions and some not, was enlightening for everyone involved.”
Some students at Hamilton were critical of the lack of policy goals for RFP, both locally and nationally. A high-ranking member of SA* who was privy to conversations about RFP said, “I think something that would have been pretty solid action goal is to get senators to vote yes on... H.R. 3755... to codify Roe v. Wade. That's a pretty clear policy thing, because they are voting on it. And the fact that [RFP] got all this action, all this publicity with nothing to funnel it into, and everything's dispersed?”
Tager, who named some specific policy goals both at Hamilton and nationally in his speech at the Hamilton protest, was hesitant to speak because of his positionality as a cis man. “But I also understood that everyone was focused on different things. If I didn't talk about how cis men need to get involved, and how there's more of an issue here with policy, it wasn't going to be done based on our speakers group chat. So I felt I have this responsibility to say something, because if I didn't, based on what was going on, or what I was seeing in the interaction with the chat, that wouldn't have happened. And I get that everyone was very involved, and emotionally charged at the time. But you know, I think we do have a job to tell people what next steps are and what actionable things we can do in our institution and in general are, and that wasn't being done.” Tager frequently advocated for more of an emphasis on policy in internal RFP discussions.
Asked why RFP has strayed away from critiquing Democrats, who are nominally pro-choice and currently control the presidency and Congress, Martin said, “RFP has been non-partisan because we are pro-choice and reproductive freedom. Federal Politics and battering Dems is very retroactive and does not solve our contemporary issues. At the end of the day, Roe will be overturned. So our focus is at the state, local, and campus level.”
Speaking for the Movement
RFP received national media coverage in The Hill and Bloomberg in addition to a large number of local articles about individual student protests, both in student and regional publications. This national attention, while useful for the movement as a whole in distributing its message to people across the country, also raised questions about who should be speaking for RFP.
While most of this coverage was favorable, the editorial staff of the right-wing tabloid Boston Herald wrote an editorial critiquing the movement as ineffectual for attempting to protest the Supreme Court. Martin, who was criticized by name in the article, took a strong position against this framing in an email to the Monitor.
“Boston Herald says that what we are doing is ineffective because anti-choice voters dominate. Fortunately for the Boston Herald editorial, that is obvious to us. That’s why our job is to make noise and activate pro-choice voters who usually do not vote in these races. What they said is, well you can’t win with the status quo… my answer to that is simple: no shit. We also have positioned each university with resources to amplify their efforts. This was made by RFP organizers, but does not mean it characterized the entire movement.”
The Hill article, released before the protests began, drew significant attention. The article was reposted to a number of sites and was cited in the Boston Herald’s editorial. M4C tweeted the article, saying, “Incredibly proud of M4C Fellow Dewayne Martin for organizing other students and standing up to fight for their rights!” Martin and Seth were quoted in the article, with Martin quoted “in an interview,” according to the reporter. Seth was quoted from a statement shared with The Hill.
Martin’s being quoted first and more extensively than Seth raised eyebrows from several students in RFP. After the article came out, Martin, who was the student who first contacted The Hill, apologized to the group for his name being featured so prominently in the first piece of national coverage RFP received. In an interview, he told the Monitor, “Immediately after I read the article, I called every organizer in the group chat. And I explained everything.” He said he told the group that, in his call with The Hill, he explicitly requested that other voices be included in the article in addition to his, but that, unfortunately, he had no control over what the reporter ended up deciding to include. He continued, “Folks in the group were receptive to that and they understood where I was coming from. And in fact, they verbally stated that they understood where I was coming from or understood that I had no control over that process.”
De La Rosa, who is a Black woman, was one of a few students who submitted a statement to Martin at his request for the article. Martin requested the statement urgently, and she stopped working on an assignment she had due in order to get him the statement in time. She was disappointed her perspective was not included. “I know me and a couple of my friends wrote statements, and for those statements to just be literally just sitting in his email, and not published in any type of way? I have written an extremely deep and very personal statement as to why I'm involved in this protest. And I haven't seen that statement anywhere throughout the protests, not in the drives, not in the articles, not in anything that's been presented, not in any of the Zoom meetings. So it's like, am I here? Just like as a diversity candidate? Or I'm like, ‘Am I just here for nothing?’” She asked, “Why aren’t my words being presented in the front core of what this protest is supposed to be about?”
At Hamilton, some Black, brown, transgender, and nonbinary students raised a number of concerns related to how their representation in speaking roles was handled. At the heart of these concerns was tokenization. These experiences highlighted a broader pattern within RFP’s Hamilton contingent, the group of students most responsible for coordinating the national movement. Many felt that they were being valued for their identity and not their experiences or potential contributions to the movement.
These concerns first became public when Sloan prefaced his speech at the 300+ person Hamilton protest expressing his frustrations. “Trans people are not your tokens. I am not your diversity card. I am not here to bolster your protest’s diversity, to make your protest more well-rounded. I am not here to make you and your protest seem trans-inclusive.”
Sloan was referring both to an open call for “people who don’t identify as women but who can give birth” speakers the day prior at the conclusion of the Center for Intersectional Feminism’s teach-in on reproductive rights and a speaker list for the event that ascribed “perspectives” to each student to speak from. This list was developed in a speakers group chat in the lead up to the event. Screenshots of this chat obtained from multiple sources by the Monitor show that no single person was responsible for creating this framing. While Lucy Naughton ‘24, co-chair of CIF, created the group chat and was seemingly coordinating who would be speaking, over the course of a number of messages, the “perspective” framing took hold after some individuals expressed their interest to “speak from” a particular perspective.
At one point in the group chat, De La Rosa shared that she could no longer give a speech due to a commitment at 6pm. Naughton then said, “if anyone knows another black and/or latin-american woman/birthing person who would like to speak from that perspective, we would love to have them since that’s such an important component to this.” Morgan said “i can” in response.
However, when Sloan entered the group chat this framing had already been established and he received it as an expectation to speak from a particular “perspective.” In an interview, he said, “I made it clear from the start that I wanted to talk about how being trans intersected with it. But I didn't want it to be like, 'from the trans perspective,' first of all, because I'm one person, but also because my experience isn't just being trans, obviously. I have other identifiers that impact my experience. And what it felt like was I was only being valued for my transness even as they were actively saying that that wasn't true.”
In a statement to the Monitor responding to Sloan’s concerns about tokenization and other criticisms of the protest, CIF said they take full accountability for mistakes made but would prefer to handle those criticisms privately and individually. They say this movement's successes and missteps are attributable to a coalition much larger than themselves.
Sloan says CIF’s co-chairs, Flores and Naughton, reached out to him later and apologized to him.
“They offered me space to talk, and apologized numerous times. They were clear about what they were apologizing for and made it clear that they knew where they had gone wrong. They didn’t make excuses, and made their action plan clear—they know CIF has a history of being exclusionary and focused on the goals of white middle/upper-class cis women, and they are actively working to rectify that. Obviously they have a ways to go, but this apology meeting felt like a really good start to that. I hold no ill will against them for their tokenizing me, and though I think they still have things they have to improve on, I think they’re making progress in becoming a better, more inclusive organization.” Naughton confirmed this meeting occurred and reiterated her apology.
Basil Brown ‘24, who is genderqueer, has a uterus, and spoke first at the Hamilton protest after responding to the open call, said in an interview immediately following the protest that they stood in solidarity with what Sloan said, and drew attention to their own feelings of tokenization with regard to how the event was planned. “I see [Sloan’s comments] in a paradigm of good faith. But it is a dual truth that it is tokenizing.” With regard to CIF, “I interpret it as ignorance, not malice. Everybody is always learning all the time. Being able to speak openly and without self censoring, and to speak emotionally, when tone policing is so prevalent in silencing oppressed groups, [was important]. I think we're working with people who want to listen, want to understand, and want to do better. And that's what makes the difference.”
Sheehan echoed some of these sentiments about how more marginalized students were brought into the process. “Yes, I agree that that is very tokenizing and kind of reduces the speakers to their various identities. And while [their identities] are important, a big reason why I wasn't a part of reaching out to a bunch of people to ask them to speak, was because, to me, I didn't really like the way it was being done. Because to me, it seemed like we were trying to collect people to speak about this, to speak about this, to speak about this.”
Lopez, who had not been in the speaker group chat, felt that this issue could have been avoided had more marginalized students been brought into the process earlier. “Perhaps if there were more voices in this from the get-go, we could have caught that, you know, we could have prevented that from coming up. And for that, I apologize. I apologize to anyone who has felt excluded, marginalized by the movement, because the point of it is to combat that. And that is why I think we have realized this need to restructure everything, to move everything to Slack and to not just restructure and move on, but to reorganize who the leaders are… We want to correct those flaws and reset the stage in a way that the people on this campus will feel good about.”
An anonymous source who was not a member of the speakers group chat but central to the organizing and aware of these messages was frustrated by how discussions about the speaker group chat had been framed. In a text message to the Monitor, they said, “Note that Corey explicitly states and even corrects Lucy what ‘perspective’ they’d be speaking from [in the group chat]. Every person involved (including the speakers who are critiquing) were complicit in creating that list and its orientation… each allowed it to occur (with excitement !!!).” They continued, “All that matters is that this culture of deflection that is so prominent on this campus is not translated to people who are just trying to do good work. Every single person contributed to what they are now critiquing.”
Sloan responded to that assertion in an email to the Monitor saying, “I didn’t consent to it, and if anyone claims I did they’re wrong and are speaking over me. It’s disturbing to me that people would assume that because I didn’t say anything (which I did.. in my speech..) that I wasn’t actually feeling the way I say I felt/feel. I didn’t say anything about it because I felt (and still feel) like I wasn’t on the same level of power as everyone else and that I’d be ousted or ostracized if I tried to speak up. Which says more about them than it does about me or how I actually felt about it.” He continued, “The reason someone might think I consented to it is because I asked them to change it from nonbinary perspective to trans perspective because I never told them I was nonbinary/that I’d be speaking from that perspective. But the whole thing had always made me uncomfortable, I was just even more uncomfortable saying something about it because of the power imbalance and my position as a speaker rather than like.. an integral part of organizing, if that makes sense. Not to say I want (or wanted) a position of power, because I didn’t and don’t necessarily want that, but that part of my tokenization was that the extent of my involvement (or the extent of how I felt I COULD get involved) was speaking. I didn’t feel like I could get involved past that, because so many of the plans were made in another chat.”
Saphire Ruiz ‘22, who is an Afro-Latinx nonbinary femme, previously won and served as the SA President in a race against Martin (disclosure: this article’s author was their VP), and was once co-chair of both the Black and Latinx Student Union and Feminists of Color Collective, declined to speak at the event when Flores reached out to them to do so. Martin also reached out to them, but they did not respond to him. In a statement to the Monitor, they said, “I knew immediately that I didn’t want to be involved. I was aware that the protest was being organized largely by cis men, and as such felt deeply uncomfortable taking part. I gave Jhoana and the rest of CIF some general organizing advice and advice specific to the protest, and that was the last of my participation and contact. I’ve always believed that protests (and organizing of any kind) should center (and as much as possible be led by) the most marginalized and at-risk, and unfortunately I got the sense that this protest was not doing and probably would not do that, and had the potential to actually cause harm (whether to people or efforts), so I opted to keep my distance. I also felt that the lack of political/social goals or demands (at least when Jhoana asked me) made it clear that the protest was unfocused, and as a burnt-out organizer I knew I wouldn’t have the capacity to deal with that lack of focus. “
De La Rosa was bothered by the speaker scheduling process in general, upset with this collection of speakers in relation to who had decision-making power. “They were looking for specific groups of people to bring in that diversity and wanted to make sure they had someone from each perspective. They made sure to have people represented but still had two men [Martin and Lopez] at the core front of the protest.”
Multiple students also raised concerns about an incident that occurred right at the start of the protest in relation to speaking. Naughton, after having been pulled aside by another student who told her it would be best to not have a white woman using one of the only two megaphones, walked to De La Rosa and Morgan, who were standing with a group of their friends. De La Rosa and Morgan had already anticipated having some kind of speaking role in the protest.
Witnesses of what happened next had different recollections of exactly what was said and in what order. However, several witnesses consistently recalled that Naughton said something to the effect that Morgan or De La Rosa should have the megaphone because they are Black. De La Rosa told the Monitor, “We just all stared at each other in disbelief. We're like, that's like, no, that's not something you say. I understand if her intentions were 'Oh, yeah, like, we want people to show diversity and have people of color at the front and center of this protest.' But also, there was another way you could have said that. I felt extremely uncomfortable. And I didn't even want to take the [megaphone] at first until Shi-Anne was like, 'Hey, you said you wanted to be part of this protest, and you have an interview [afterwards, preventing you from giving a full speech], so [you] might as well be part of it,’ and I said, ‘You're right.’ Because this is something I'm deeply passionate about, knowing that people in my family have had issues with reproductive rights. And coming from the Dominican Republic, we didn't have those rights over there. So just coming here and having those rights and then having to fight for them is something that's extremely personal to me.”
Morgan says this moment caused a larger realization for her about the speaker group chat. “I did not feel comfortable saying something in the group chat. This is the first instance I have had at Hamilton where I was genuinely uncomfortable, due to the comments that Lucy made; I didn't know how to address it and honestly I still don’t know. At first, I didn’t realize the thin line between inclusivity and tokenizing individuals until Lucy handed me the megaphone because I’m Black. Because I was not interacting in the group chat often, I didn’t see a problem originally.””
In a statement to the Monitor, Naughton said the Monitor’s request for comment was the first she had heard of concerns about this exchange and apologized. “If I had known of these concerns I would have done the same [as with Sloan and apologized] to Shi-Anne and Leslie. I'm aware of the incident in question, which was purely an attempt to allow those more marginalized than myself any form of representation possible, especially coming from their own mouths… I agreed with [the student who said it would be best someone other than a white woman have the megaphone] and attempted to rectify what I viewed as a mistake at the last minute, and apparently I was untactful in my delivery. I did not intend to cause harm or make anyone feel tokenized, but I see how out of context that may have been an unfortunate, and of course accidental, impact.” She continued, “I hope people can understand that while mistakes were made, they were made with good intentions that got muddled and misguided in all of the craziness of trying to get a protest together in 48 hours. I know I speak on behalf of all of the organizers when I say we were all doing our best given the circumstances.”
The day after the protest, concerns surrounding trans-inclusive language usage were discussed in a national RFP group chat. Screenshots shared with the Monitor show that Martin shared messages about gender inclusive language from the Trans Journalist Association (TJM) and Mrinalini Chakraborty, a founding member of Women’s March and chair of Men4Choice Education’s board of directors. TJM wrote, “It is unnecessary to avoid the word ‘women’ by substituting phrases like ‘birthing people,’ ‘people with uteruses’ and the like. This language can offend both transgender and cisgender people. Instead use phrases like abortion patients or people seeking abortions, or other wording as applicable.” A couple people emphasized this message.
Chakraborty’s message read, “I think for our audience we do a mix of ‘women’ and ‘people’ to ensure we meet them where they are and bring them towards a broader understanding that cis women aren’t the only ones who need abortions. We usually don’t use ‘patients’ since I think that’s most suitable for providers.”
Martin added the context that she was speaking “to the purposes of M4C as an organization and looping in cis-men when she’s discussing audience.” Most students in the group chat interviewed for this article said they were unaware of Chakraborty’s connection to M4C, but were aware of her connection to Women’s March.
Tager responded in the group chat, “I think maybe we should bring trans voices [from Hamilton] into the discussion of this language usage. Because making this decision over language should not be done by a bunch of cis people.” Several people emphasized this message.
Another student, whose name the Monitor was unable to obtain, responded that “patients” and “people” could work if they made an effort to clarify that these terms included people of various marginalized identities because “unfortunately when we use broad terms… society has trained us to think of white people first.”
Tager replied across multiple messages (condensed for clarity), “Hey like can we just please ask Trans students for their perspective and input. It is not our place to decide this as cis people… But I really think we need to not debate this and rather just ask people who actually would be impacted by our terminology. And this is while I’m currently consulting on this message with two trans people as I send this message to y’all - so it isn’t just like me saying this.” The Monitor verified that Tager had been consulting with two trans people. He closed, “I would also like to say Corey [Sloan’s] speech is really powerful and could provide guidance.”
The other student agreed trans people should be asked, as well as “more people for the Hamilton team in general.” According to the screenshots shared with the Monitor, this conversation about language usage did not continue in the group chat.
Sloan had a conversation with Martin, who had not been involved with coordinating speakers, about his feelings of tokenization. In contrast to his meeting with CIF’s co-chairs, felt this call did not properly address his concerns.
Martin told the Monitor, “I literally sat with Corey, and he told me, 'I have a concern with being tokenized.' And I told him, 'I'm one of the main organizers of this. And I want to tell you that as a Black man, I understand what it means to be tokenized, I want to tell you that this is not what's being done. If in any way this is being made to feel that way for you... the space is open for you to express that to me. And we will solve that.’”
McGovern, who had heard about this call from Sloan, felt the call spoke to a larger issue with Martin’s approach. “If you're trying to build the stage, well, you need to build a stage that is all inclusive. Everybody makes sure everybody feels comfortable. The stage should not be uneven.” Speaking to Sloan’s concerns about how Martin’s response was not enough in terms of action, he said, “And it's almost as though they don't care about that. So again, to me, this reminds me that [certain individuals like Martin] don't care about [the stage]. It almost feels like it's not about the stage for these individuals. Because if it was you'd be listening to these issues, and you'd be having real discussions with them.” Later in the interview, McGovern emphasized that he felt Martin had positive intentions and a personal connection to the cause.
Student Assembly & Policy Goals
On Monday, May 9th, Hamilton’s SA passed resolution 22-1: Reproductive Freedoms for Hamilton Students. Originally introduced by Class Rep Molina, Vice President Lopez, Class Rep Martin, Class President Adina Mujica ‘24, and Class Rep McGovern, the resolution called for measures to “to increase accessibility to sexual, menstrual, and reproductive health products and services for all students.” Gutierrez and Sloan, who are respectively a ‘25 representative and not a member of SA, were added as resolution sponsors during the meeting. McGovern was removed prior to the start of the meeting. The resolution passed 15 to 2.
The resolution was written the night prior after it had been announced in the agenda for the meeting. Molina, Lopez, Martin, and Mujica worked on the resolution through most of the night. Sloan and Gutierrez were invited to make edits and contributions, which they did. Lopez said they made the resolution available for review and suggestions to Hamilton’s RFP members. At completion, the resolution advocated for all bathrooms to be equipped with menstrual products, for Hamilton to provide free or reduced cost access to abortion medications and surgery, and more.
McGovern explained in an interview why his name was initially included as a sponsor but then removed. “We had talked about writing it together. And I was like, ‘okay, yeah, I'll do it.’ And then I wake up, and it's already done. So I didn't contribute anything. I'm not gonna put my name on something that I didn't do anything [for].”
While the resolution was being discussed, some conflicts came to the fore. During the meeting, which was the final of the semester, some members of the Assembly raised the possibility of pushing the vote on the resolution to the next semester. President Emily Jiang ‘25, who is a queer person of color, raised this possibility and Lopez interrupted them explaining why he felt that was a poor decision. Martin immediately followed up in agreement, at which point Jiang said, “I’d prefer not to be interrupted.” The room went silent for a few moments, with some students in the Class of 2025 delegation knocking on the tables in support.
In a statement to the Monitor, Jiang said, “Marvin and Dewayne both separately apologized directly after the meeting. I had a longer conversation with Dewayne, but essentially emotions were just running high with him as someone especially invested in this resolution and me as someone who had been chairing a 2.5 hour meeting and under extreme duress to navigate the dynamic in the room… they felt bad about interrupting me and, more hurtful to me, insinuating that I had no stake in or understanding of the fight for reproductive freedom; similarly, I felt bad about my outburst that wasn’t entirely because of them, and Dewayne and I both apologized and cleared it up after the meeting.” Martin and Lopez each confirmed they had these discussions.
As the meeting progressed, discussion arose about who would be given credit in the resolution. Gutierrez expressed that she felt excluded from the whole process, including RFP. Martin responded, but the audio recording of the meeting was inaudible; the Assembly has not published the minutes for this meeting by publishing time.
After conferring quickly with Lopez, Jiang asked the Assembly to keep the discussion focused on the resolution itself. In an email to the Monitor, Jiang said they were aware of some of the pre-existing conflicts and made their decision to keep the Assembly on task, “Keeping in mind everything I knew about [Lopez and Gutierrez], the thoughts they've communicated to me, and the general energy of the assembly at the moment, I decided to continue with the tone I had set as a chair from the beginning of my administration, which was to streamline our meetings as much as possible and keep discussion specific and on task so we could accomplish as much as possible in general meetings without getting sidetracked in discussions that could occur outside of the meeting.” They emphasized that Lopez had told them the resolution was separate from RFP and that they had spoke with Gutierrez following the meeting and confirmed she was comfortable with the outcome.
Sheehan, the Parliamentarian, explained some of the rationale for this distinction. “Not everybody that was involved in the protests had a hand in the resolution, and the people on SA wrote it.” As the meeting continued, Sheehan would need to settle the dispute about crediting on the resolution.
Lopez at first said that only voting members of the Assembly could be included as resolution sponsors according to the Constitution. Sheehan, after reviewing relevant portions of the constitution, ruled that there was no prohibition on crediting non-members as resolution sponsors. Jiang had been texting with Sloan, who was not present, and shared that he did want to be included as a sponsor. Lopez then asked Gutierrez if she would like to be listed as a sponsor. After hesitating for a few seconds, she said she would.
In an interview, Gutierrez explained why she hesitated. She had already been thinking about what she would want prior to Sheehan’s ruling. “Damn, what am I gonna say? If I even get asked? I didn't want my name to be on it, because I felt like the resolution was an extension of the protests. And to me, that was very wrong. The whole protest in itself was very problematic to me. I just don't think that they executed correctly.” However, she decided to be listed as a sponsor because, “I think that there has been too many times where people say things, specifically people of color, and they don't get credit for what they attributed or what they said. And I didn't want to be another one of those people. I don't think that we've deserved that.”
Lopez told the Monitor in an email that he had reached out to Gutierrez to address her concerns, but that, “Unfortunately, she declined to meet. Initially, I contacted her for feedback on the resolution, which she agreed to do. She was credited for her contributions at the last meeting. After the resolution passed, I reached out once again to coordinate a group chat of the primary authors (so that we could follow up with the individuals who the resolution was addressed to). She did not respond to the request. We were supposed to meet today [May 12th], but we had scheduling conflicts. Again, these are ongoing conversations.”
Gutierrez provided screenshots of some of her text messages with Lopez. The messages show that, initially, most communication between the two had been via McGovern. The two had initially scheduled a time to meet at Lopez’s request, but Lopez had canceled about an hour and a half prior saying he had too much work with finals to meet at that time. Gutierrez was bothered by this, saying she had rearranged her schedule specifically to meet with him. She also told the Monitor that this meeting would have included Martin. In a message to the Monitor, she said, “[Lopez] made it seem like I didn’t want to meet when I said I would and couldn’t reschedule.”
Resolution 22-1 mandated follow-up from the Assembly on its policy proposals. That process will likely begin towards the start of next semester. However, almost all members who voted on the resolution will not be members of the Assembly next semester. As the people most responsible for guiding the Assembly’s work, it will be up to Jiang and Lopez to ensure that this follow-up occurs.
In an email to RFP organizers across the nation on Thursday, May 12th, Martin wrote, “The contribution each and every one of you made sent shockwaves throughout the country. I say this at risk of being overly repetitive, but a week ago today you all organized a NATIONWIDE protest, activating thousands of students in less than 72 hours! I want you to sit with the gravity of that for a second. If Thursday doesn't go to show you that we have and we are EVERYTHING we need to continue this fight, I don't know what will. You are powerful!”
He listed a set of five action items for organizers: “Identify campus, local and state-wide reproductive freedom/health organizations, campaigns, and local independent student efforts,” “Create reproductive health recommendations/demands directed to your university,” “Create a local community action calendar,” “Build our organizing community,” and “Stay visible.”
One goal several core organizers expressed was to travel to Washington, DC if and when the Supreme Court issues a final decision on overturning Roe to protest. These plans are still shaping up and are subject to change.
At Middlebury, Farley says, “Dewayne has big plans for the group. I can see us either following Sunrise Movement’s path and working with policy in the national system with external political pressure via nonviolent action or continuing to focus on college-specific policies with external political pressure via nonviolent action. It will be interesting to figure out how to continue this work when we are out of classes for the summer.”
This work will require a long-term commitment from members. Sherman explained from Wesleyan, “I think the next few months are crucial for RFP, as we must make sure to continue the momentum and not allow for passion to die out once the immediate shock of the decision has passed. Because of that, I think the next few months will be chaotic in that there will be many demonstrations to organize and organizations to connect with in order to keep momentum going. Although it will be busy, the RFP's next few months are vital to the movement as a whole and require widespread participation.”
Martin, asked to summarize how he felt RFP has gone, said, “I think it has and continues to be going amazing — every student involved has done a phenomenal job in just a few days positioning students as individuals with power to effectuate change despite the amount of formal experience they have. I’m looking forward to growing the movement and developing intentional relationships with each and everyone of our organizers. Before anything else, this is a community of care.”
Hamilton organizers also recognized shortcomings and critiques. A Hamilton student close to the organizing of RFP since the early stages who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Monitor, “I would like to say that I take accountability for making people feel tokenized, while I cared about representation I was targeting certain groups so they may come speak at our protest. I failed to realize that I subconsciously wanted to validate myself and our protest. I would like to make clear I did not necessarily play the role in recruiting speakers rather I just expressed that we needed more representation when it came to the recruitment of speakers.”
Sheehan, noting the criticisms some students raised about RFP throughout the process and her respect for her fellow organizers, said she would be working diligently to ensure that the issues of RFP’s first few weeks would be addressed properly going forward. “If that's something that people are going to be worried about coming into it next year, that it's going to be exactly like it was this time around, that is definitely not going to happen if I have anything to say about it.” She reiterated that she felt the other three of the original organizers, Molina, Lopez, and Martin, agreed that changes needed to be made to recenter more marginalized voices.
Molina called a meeting for Hamilton students involved with RFP the evening of Sunday, May 15th to discuss the movement and potentially address the feelings raised throughout the process. The Monitor was unable to determine how that meeting went, but confirmed that several students who were invited and who raised concerns in this article were unable to attend, though most expressed interest in doing so.
Still, for some students, the harm had already been done. Several Hamilton students have since left the organizing group chats. Reasons varied from person to person, but a consistent theme was mental health and the internal conflicts before, during, and after the Hamilton protest. Morgan said, “If a lot of people in the public have a problem with [how RFP has been organized], then there's obviously something there that needs to be fixed. I really feel like [Martin and Lopez] just see it their way and only their way. And if they were to just allow people to come forward with them, and tell them what they think they should have done differently, I don't think it would be bashing them. I think it would be helping them a little bit more, and making the movement stronger, rather than making a bunch of people leave the group chat as a result of everything they've done.” When asked whether if this were to occur, Morgan would have a desire to return, she said, “No, not at all. There's personal issues in between a lot of stuff that has happened, and I just would not want to be back in that environment with them.”
Tager explained why he left in the days following the protest. “The reality is that [including trans people] is something that should have been done from the beginning. Corey should have been involved from the beginning, trans voices on this campus should have been involved from the beginning. That's the reality. And I get that people were involved that were people of color, that were women of color, that's great. But if all voices aren't accounted for, this isn't an equitable protest, this isn't an equitable movement. And so I think, for me, that was something that led me to eventually leave the organization.” He added that the second reason he left is that the work and experience of being in RFP was overwhelming, and for his mental health he felt he needed to leave.
De La Rosa was interested in becoming involved again if things changed, but did not see that occurring anytime soon. “I had been speaking with [Morgan] and Nevaeh [about] everything that was happening, and I was just like, 'this isn't what I signed up for. This isn't why I said yes to Ryley, I'll join the group chat. This is drama. This is drama...' And I said, 'I don't want this anymore for myself, for my mental health.' And I said, 'if there's anything that Hamilton is organizing, that will make the world a better place, then hell yeah I'll join. But if it's going to come with drama, I'm not going to be a part of that.'” She added, “I would definitely consider joining back the group chat if there were some changes that would occur. But for right now, with everything that's happening, I am choosing to distance myself because the year is ending, I have great opportunities that are coming up for me during the summer and great internships, and I really don't want to derail myself.”
All students interviewed for this article were fiercely against the overturning of Roe and expressed deep passion for protecting the bodily autonomy of all people with uteruses. In just a few days, Hamilton students were able to create a national protest that received national attention. Thousands of students across the country mobilized to fight for their rights, and this act of resistance was empowering to many.
While most interviewees were impressed with the rapid response to the Politico leak, it was exactly this speed that made it difficult for organizers to have the conversations they needed to resolve conflicts, or avoid them altogether. Decisions were made quickly with varying degrees of input and control from the group, and those who became involved at the ground floor and remained involved had the most power. Most acknowledged a need to decenter and delegate information, decision-making, and representation in media to a much broader group, namely, to Black and brown people with uteruses, those most impacted by ongoing threats to reproductive rights. As RFP enters the summer, it will engage with many of these issues more deeply and with more time than before. The question which remains to be answered is whether the distrust and conflict built over the group’s founding weeks can be overcome, and this group can stand in solidarity fighting as one.
*High-ranking means any member of the Executive Board, Class Presidents, students who serve on College or Trustee committees/working groups/task forces on behalf of the Assembly, and all committee chairs and vice-chairs.