Sometimes you know you want to do something, but it takes a push for you to actually go out and do it.
By senior year of college, Tracey Vitchers ’10 had spent most of her life as a competitive swimmer. Her days revolved around the pool – morning swims before sunrise, lifting sessions in the afternoon, another workout before dinner. At Williams, Vitchers’ best friends and roommates were on the swim team and her social life revolved around team functions.
Over the course of her time at Williams, however, Vitchers’ discovered new passions. On a whim, she enrolled in Women’s Studies 101 and two years later became one of four Women’s and Gender Studies majors in her class. She became chair of the Women’s Center Board and started organizing and attending a variety of rallies. “I was constantly the person stirring the pot. It was all because I felt that Williams could be a better place and a safer community.”
To Vitchers, the move to activism was as unexpected as it was invigorating. She continued to participate on the swim team, but more out of a sense of obligation than enthusiasm. “As time wore on, I realized that I loved the swimming community, but that swimming was dictating a lot of other things in my life. It got to a point during senior year that every time I got in the pool, I was thinking about what else I could be doing that better matched my passion.”
Vitchers’ struggle between activism and athletics came to a head on a cold day during December of her senior year. A few days earlier, homophobic graffiti was found on a student’s door in Mission. While many students brushed the incident aside as an isolated act, a movement was growing to hold the perpetrators accountable and implement a series of institutional changes to help marginalized members of the campus community.
Walking across campus that day, Vitchers ran into one of her mentors – Justin Adkins, the Queer Life Coordinator. “He looked at me and said, ‘they need you. You need to go to Hardy House (where the students were organizing) because it’s about to blow up.’ I said, ‘I can’t, I have to go to swim practice.’ He said, ‘fuck swimming – this is much more important. Has anyone ever told you that swimming is optional?’”