On May 21, the two of us will graduate as equals with the men around us. The next day, our value, as measured by the pay rate, will drop to 76 percent of those men.

In the past four years we’ve seen Women’s Caucus and the women on this campus in general do great things. We’ve raised thousands of dollars for charity through the Vagina Monologues and other events. We’ve volunteered at women’s shelters and marched in protest through the streets of Washington, D.C. With the help of the Campus Times, our voices and issues have been broadcast to the entire university community.

In those same four years, we’ve also seen women’s issues marginalized, not only by our traditional opponents, but by the very people who are affected most by them and by people who claim to share our values and ideals. On our own campus, women’s issues are treated as a niche interest by other progressive groups. We’ve seen groups come to us with offers of co-sponsorships with the explanation that women are poor, women live on Earth and so must care about the environment, women are living in countries we’re fighting and women are affected by failing schools.

As we leave campus, it’s time to be honest and forthright about how we view ourselves. We, as women, are not a passive group. We are not just affected by issues, we affect them. We don’t just live in failing school districts, we are also the ones teaching in them, the ones fighting for change. We are not here to be professional victims, in order to demonstrate the injustices of society. Nor are we simply a prop for the liberal movement or a token of inclusiveness, but we are in fact the organizers and fighters. We are agents of change in this world.

This is not to say that the women on this campus are unaware of feminism. Instead, we see intelligent, committed women who care deeply about feminist issues but for some reason refuse to acknowledge them as women’s issues, distinct from the larger progressive agenda. We see women who firmly believe that they are equal to men in every way, and yet refuse to self-identify as feminists. We see students who care about individual issues but who do not see the connecting threads between them.

The discussions that we have every week in Women’s Caucus are a continuation of the consciousness-raising groups on college campuses that began the modern women’s movement. Women came together and found connections between them that they would not have seen otherwise. Through our conversations, we have found other students who share our anger over issues that society as a whole has accepted as the norm. We hear the same frustrations and fears that we once thought were ours alone and we leave energized with the knowledge that there are so many passionate women who recognize the need for change.

April 25 is Pay Equity Day, the year’s last big project for Women’s Caucus and the last one of our college career for the two of us. It’s fitting that the last issue we address is one that will affect so many of us once we have left the bubble of college life. Once we graduate, our pay will be a reflection of not only our skills, but our gender. On paper, the concept that an individual would be paid less based on anything other than merit goes against American tradition and against the very foundation of democracy. But we accept this injustice, as we do so many others, in everyday life.

So many of us are idealistic, leaving college and sincerely believing we will change the world in some small way. Older generations may call us naive and as we grow older disillusionment may hinder our efforts. We do not want to leave college upset about how far we have to go, but to celebrate how far we have come.

As graduates of the Class of 2006 we congratulate the work done by our peers. We also hope that we, as women, will remember that we have achieved because of the sacrifices and strength of the women who came before us, and will recognize that we have the opportunity to be to our daughters what Susan B. Anthony has been to us.

Jessica Stoll can be reached at jstoll@campustimes.org.Julie Stoltman can be reached at jstoltman@campustimes.org.

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