On April 20, Monica Lewinsky ’95 will visit Lewis & Clark for several events hosted by the Feminist Student Union (FSU). The main event is titled “An Evening With Monica Lewinsky: Social Activism, the Price of Shame, and Resilience.” This will be the first time Lewinsky has returned to LC’s campus since she graduated.
The first event is a 45-minute private conversation with around 30 LC students, who are either student leaders or FSU members, followed by an hour-long reception with trustees and sponsors. The public talk will be held in Pamplin Sports Center at 7 p.m. This will include a 30-minute talk and a 30-minute Q&A, including both pre-approved and audience questions. The event in Pamplin will not be livestreamed or recorded.
In order to avoid crowding, the talk is ticketed. Tickets are free and have been released in waves, the first being available for LC students, faculty and staff to claim on March 30. Subsequent waves of tickets were released on April 6 and April 13, and were available to the larger community. A final wave of tickets will be released at 8 a.m. on April 19. Additional tickets will not be available at the door.
FSU’s leadership team was motivated to host this event primarily because Lewinsky is a famous alumnus, but also due to her involvement with feminist organizations.
“We wanted to hear about her experience, living on campus, what classes she enjoyed, favorite study spots,” Isabella Boughalem ’22, an FSU leader, said via email. “These are just the classic questions any college would ask an alumnus in hopes of finding intriguing similarities and differences comparing college life thirty years ago to now. Additionally, throughout her life, Ms. Lewinksy has dealt with various feminist organizations that have both shamed and supported her journey. We wanted to show our solidarity with her as a feminist icon.”
Bringing Lewinsky to campus had been an idea of the union’s since before COVID-19, and when the pandemic began they were not sure if they would be able to make it happen. At a certain point, it did not seem like a feasible possibility.
However, in July 2021, Boughalem reached out to Lewinsky’s media team to see if she would be interested in visiting LC.
“I didn’t tell anyone at the time because I didn’t think her people would respond, so it felt pointless to get the FSU leadership team’s hopes up,” Boughalem said. “It wasn’t until a few weeks later, when I received an enthusiastic reply, that I let myself get excited. I wasn’t entirely sure what her experience was like at LC, so I didn’t know if she had the desire to come back to campus. Those fears were quickly squashed when her team indicated that she has always wanted to return because she thoroughly enjoyed her undergrad.”
Boughalem then brought on the help of FSU’s faculty advisor, Associate Professor with Term of Humanities Kimberly Brodkin, who drew on her experience contacting speakers for symposia, and had previously worked with Lewinsky’s agent when bringing other guests to campus.
“Her recent work around shame and anti-bullying has attracted a lot of interest,” Brodkin said via email. “I think the #MeToo movement led many people to think in new ways about Lewinsky’s experiences and the way she was treated by the media and general public.”
Brodkin is glad that the LC community has responded well to the event, and looks forward to the opportunities students will have in engaging in intimate conversation and hearing Lewinsky’s perspective on social activism and resilience.
Boughalem echoed a similar sentiment about the community’s response.
“It was great news that Ms. Lewinksy has enjoyed her time here, but another point of tension that I wasn’t entirely sure about was how LC felt about her,” Boughalem said. “(Brodkin) shared that in the past few years, there had been talking about inviting her to campus, but nothing came of it. That made me feel worlds better because this is an event the school had been actively wanting as well.”
FSU spent the fall semester planning the event and reaching out to other organizations on campus in order to get help with funding, organizing and publicizing the event. They were met with lots of support, most notably by the Associated Student Body, Office of the President and Office of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as Conferences and Events, Campus Safety and the Office of Communications.
Boughalem described that one of the most difficult tasks that Brodkin helped with was figuring out what Lewinsky’s day would look like, including how much time she would spend on campus and what she would be comfortable with doing.
Throughout the academic year, information about Lewinsky’s visit was kept confidential. Boughalem described the weeks since the event was announced as “incredibly hectic but in a good way.”
During the first three waves of tickets being released, tickets sold out extremely quickly. Many students hoping to claim one have been unable to do so. Gillian Watts ’24 expressed feeling frustrated about not being able to get a ticket even after all three waves were released.
“I really wanted to go, because I want to go into … pre-law,” Watts said. “(I’m interested in) her perspective of being a woman working in that type of environment where there’s a lot of powerful men. It’s just a cool, interesting experience.”
Boughalem also mentioned the importance of hosting a significant event on campus, after being unable to do so for so long during the pandemic. She is looking forward to bringing LC together to understand the power of community.
“As someone who has dedicated a lot of my time to this union, it is really wonderful to end my time at LC with such a popular event,” Boughalem said. “This event has taken up a lot of my senior year, but it feels like an extraordinary conclusion for all of us senior FSU leaders and members.”
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