June 19 Community Update from President Hanno

Dear Wheaton Community,

Wheaton joined many others across the nation today to honor Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging equality and respect for all races. The day celebrates the fact that on this date in 1865 the news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally made it to Texas, effectively ending slavery in the United States.

With equitable action and achievement in mind, each division of the college took time today to explore policies, processes and structures driven by the vision of developing action plans to create an anti-racist environment. This process will extend far beyond today and as departmental plans are formulated they will be integrated into the six pillars of the Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan and shared with the community. In the future, Wheaton will formally recognize Juneteenth each year as a paid college holiday for employees to celebrate this special date in our collective history.

Last week I mentioned the action of some of our recent graduates that led to a well-attended Black Lives Matter protest here in Norton. I continue to be struck by how their powerful action has had an impact on this community beyond our campus. One of the most powerful moments at the event was the spoken word delivered by recent graduate Anesu Makufa. Every person in attendance was affected by his passionate and moving words. I am so appreciative of him and everyone in our community who has taken a stand and is making a difference through their actions.

As faculty and staff continue their work on creating an anti-racist community, I wanted to share that a group of our social science faculty have developed a new interdisciplinary course, Race & Racism: Building an Anti-racist Society (INT 220). The course will be open to all students, faculty, and staff and the coursework will examine the socio-historical, psychological, political, and economic structures that created and now sustain racial inequality. By studying the institutional and systemic practices that sustain racial inequality, participants in this course will be better equipped to do effective anti-racist work. And by examining concrete strategies for action, the class will invite and empower participants to do the work of creating social change on our own campus and beyond. Please consider joining the class – I intend to.

The pandemic has left a void in my calendar this month, as usually around this time of June we would be hosting Wheaton contingents and celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month at several regional Pride Parades. Our Alumni Association has done its best to celebrate virtually, and there are many groups and resources on campus to both celebrate and support our LGBTQ+ community. I encourage you to engage with and follow student organizations such as Alliance, Queer and Trans People of Color, SAFE Haüs, SHAG and Whea.Out among others, and learn more about campus-wide programs such as Safe Zone Allyship and The Network, including its web resource with more information on all of these programs.

The college’s Reopening Task Force has been working every single day to prepare for a safe return to campus for students, faculty and staff. Much progress has been made and we look forward to announcing our plan for on-campus operations by July 1. In particular, we will be sharing with you then the schedule for the return to campus, as various options for the start of the semester are being considered and move-in will likely be scheduled and phased. We continue to work closely with other Massachusetts colleges on a collaborative testing plan that will substantially assist in our return to campus and positively impact our ability to maintain a safe environment on campus. Every area of campus is involved in developing our plan to bring people back to campus and I am heartened to see the dedication and commitment to creating a safe environment for all.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere. This turn of the calendar causes me to reflect that I suspect the spring season of 2020 is one that will long be remembered in the history books – certainly in the Wheaton history books. Even with all the challenges we have faced and that I have been sharing with you in my emails, I am heartened by the way we have worked together to confront and overcome them. We know we have much left to do to address these challenges, but I know we are up to the task and that Wheaton will become stronger and better in so many ways. Thank you for giving me that confidence.

Have a wonderful first day of summer!

Dennis Hanno
Wheaton College