Monica Lewinsky Coming to Campus

Endowed Lecture to Focus on Online Harassment

Monica Lewinsky Coming to Campus

Shaina Breeden and Holden Andrews

Bridgewater, Va.- On Oct. 17, Monica Lewinsky will be at Bridgewater College to give an Endowed Lecture on online harassment. The lecture will be held at 7:30 p.m. and will be advocating for a safer social media environment. The lecture will be held in Nininger Hall and no bags, photos or recordings will be allowed in the venue for the event.

Bridgewater College said in an online statement, “As a public speaker, writer and contributor to Vanity Fair, Lewinsky addresses such topics as survival, resilience, digital reputation and equality. Lewinsky looks at these societal issues through her unique and profound experiences.” 

“In 2014, after a decade-long, self-imposed retreat from public life, Lewinsky authored an essay, ‘Shame and Survival,’ for Vanity Fair. The essay, nominated for a National Magazine Award, was the starting point for her to begin a process she describes as “taking back my narrative and giving a purpose to my past.”

Director of Endowed Lectures and Professor of Communication Studies and Theatre, Jennifer Babcock, chose Lewinsky to give this lecture and said, “I knew she was starting to talk publicly about internet shaming and bullying and this is an issue that resonates with our students. Likely starting younger than we think, a lot of our students have been bullied online or know someone who has been. I know from talking with students that the online harassment continues once they get to college. The nature of it may change, but it is still happening. Monica Lewinsky’s experience in overcoming that online harassment herself would be useful for our students.”

The idea is to plan other events around Lewinsky’s lecture. Bridgewater College has prepared various activities around the lecture that will be related to these concepts.

Bridgewater College Dean of Students Dr. Leslie Frere said, “With the goal of maximizing the impact of Monica Lewinsky’s speaking engagement on campus, we developed thematic programming around social media and public shaming, assumptions, and power differentials in relationships.” 

Bridgewater will also be hosting tabling sessions called “Taking a Double-Take: Examining Assumptions” which gives students an opportunity to identify assumptions that have been made about them or that they have made about others. 

This program will run concurrently with a panel discussion on social media, public shaming, and “cancel culture.” After the lecture with Lewinsky, the college will be hosting an event called “Relationship Culture Synopsis,” where they look to examine how media and pop culture shapes perceptions about relationships. 

In regard to Lewinsky coming to Bridgewater, Frere said, “I think she, more than most, can help students tap into the empathy for one another, for which we all have capacity, but have learned to ignore. The more understanding we have for one another, the harder it becomes to trivialize another’s experience or say or do hurtful things. People’s lives aren’t entertainment, and we shouldn’t treat them that way. We’ve lost our willingness to allow others room for grace; we ‘cancel’ them, judge them, make assumptions about them, without ever really knowing who they are, and dare I say, caring about the consequences of those assumptions. My hope for those who listen to Ms. Lewinsky is that, even if only for one minute, they put themselves into another’s shoes and appreciate the humanity therein.”

Lewinsky’s trip to campus has gained a bit of attention, enough for WHSV to write an article about it. Since sharing the article on their Facebook there have been many comments from various readers. 

Some comments say things like “Well, I personally would like to hear her speak. She is human as we all are, made her mistakes, and has paid dearly for them. Time to act like decent people and not hold her accountable for life. I am sure the college students are all perfectly responsible adults and will learn something from what she has to say.” And “I am sure her speech will be informative if it is about online harassment. She has had more than her share since the bad decisions she made in her past. I admire her for trying to get her life back.”

There were also some people leaving comments saying things like “Oh my goodness…. I would love to hear her speak… NOT!” In addition: “That’s a poor excuse of a human to put in front of a bunch of college students” and “Wow you couldn’t get anyone more respectable SMH.”

Babcock said “I hope a lot of people will be here listening and hopefully those who are here will share her message as a positive thing with those who did not come. Those who are worried about her being here will hopefully see her coming to campus as a good thing in the end. However, I am not shocked some people are surprised or confused she is coming because some people are not aware that she has tried to take what she has learned and make a positive difference.” 

Lastly, Babcock said “Overall she is coming to advocate for a safer social media environment and talk about ways students can move past their own experiences of online harassment and bullying. She is also going to talk about the way our society treats people who we believe deserve shame, and how she found a way to move past her own feelings of shame and humiliation in the aftermath of what happened. Hopefully we can use her lessons and apply them to our own lives if those feelings of shame are something we have experienced.”