Building community

To the campus community,

Members of the Class of 2019 represent 40 different countries and 27 states. Overall, students come to campus from more than 70 nations and nearly 40 states. Approximately 21 percent of enrolled students identify a diverse racial or ethnic background. The variety of experiences and backgrounds that we possess as a community is a wonderful educational asset, if we use it to listen closely, respect viewpoints different from our own and learn from each other.

Wheaton should be leading the way in building an inclusive and welcoming community for all. Today, I am calling on the entire campus to dedicate ourselves to appreciating and learning from our diversity. Building Community Together is what we are calling this year-long initiative, and it expresses our goal: to create an environment of openness and mutual respect and appreciation.

This initiative will kick off with a full-day of activities in October. The day will include a keynote address for the whole campus as well as opportunities for members of the community to explore issues and concerns related to achieving inclusion and the barriers to reaching our goals in small group settings. Planning for this day is being led by the Council on Inclusion and Diversity (CID) and details will be announced soon.

In addition to the launch, the CID will be coordinating events, workshops and activities throughout the entire year that encourage us to listen to each other, consider perspectives beyond our own and learn from those experiences. A number of programs are already planned for this semester, and we will be adding more. I encourage other groups and organizations on campus to also create activities and programs that focus on this important goal. (Learn more about what’s already planned and how you can get involved.) I urge every member of the community to participate in as many of these activities as possible. We cannot be passive bystanders; we must all be involved in building a stronger community.

This would be an important effort under any circumstances. Considering the flyers that were posted in Meadows West at the start of the semester, it seems all the more necessary. The ignorance, bias and hate that they express are a direct challenge to the college’s mission and values. Those posters express an active resistance to learning from others as well as a lack of respect that runs counter to the college’s Honor Code.

The Department of Public Safety has investigated that incident vigorously, cross-checking building access records and interviewing a number of Wheaton students. While we have not identified the person or persons who are responsible for this reprehensible act, the investigation remains open and we continue to work on developing new leads.We have found no evidence suggesting that the people who did this are not members of our community. In fact, I am certain that there are those who know more about this incident than they have shared, and I urge them to come forward. Report what you know to Public Safety, report it anonymously or contact me.

Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, we should focus on how to create an environment in which every individual feels safe and respected, a place in which we learn from each other, in and out of the classroom. To be successful, we need to be sure this goal is present in what we do in the classroom, what we do with our co-curricular activities, and what we do in the way we live and work together. It can’t be an afterthought or even a temporary focus; it has to be integral to everything we do. But to get there, we do need to make it a special and explicit focus. This initiative makes it that.

You have to be the driver for Building Community Together. Come to me with ideas and with your passion. If you are interested in a particular topic or type of program, you can make it happen. CID is offering funding to support faculty, staff and student collaboration on initiatives that promote inclusion and diversity on campus. You can find information about this funding on the CID website ( While there is a deadline of October 15 for the current round of funding, if you have a good idea in need of funding at any time, let me know. Together we can make a difference.

Together we can build a better Wheaton. Join me in Building Community Together.


Dennis Hanno