An update on Wheaton’s diversity and inclusion efforts

President Dennis M. Hanno emailed this message to students, faculty and staff of Wheaton College on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017

To the campus community,

I would like to take a few minutes as the semester concludes to update you on the work we have been doing and the progress we have made toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive community.

The incident that occurred during Halloween underscored the issues and challenges that we face as a community. Since then, a number of community discussions have taken place and real progress has been made on many fronts. The Task Force on Inclusion and Diversity held several sessions with students, faculty and staff over the last few weeks, reviewing the comprehensive plan for structural, policy and program changes that will be presented to the Board of Trustees for endorsement in February.

This inclusion and diversity plan, which is the result of the work of many people across campus over several months, addresses many of the points raised by the Black Student Association and has also been significantly shaped by the discussions that have taken place since Halloween. There has been broad input from constituents across campus, and it focuses on such important priorities as diversity in recruiting faculty and staff; changes to the curriculum; training for faculty, staff and students; and response to bias incidents. Some initiatives, such as the establishment of the Center for Social Justice and Community Impact, have already been launched or are well underway.

At the same time, the efforts to engage the entire community in grappling with issues of race and identity are equally important. The second teach-in that faculty organized on November 9 was a huge success, and the feedback from those who attended was very positive. It has been heartening to see the broad-based involvement of so many on campus in this work. Faculty members are planning to sponsor more conversations like this for the spring and there will be other opportunities for the community to come together on these issues.

The student conduct process related to this incident, as well as other incidents that came to light, has concluded. While the outcome is confidential, you can be assured that those involved have been held accountable. Members of the women’s soccer team have been involved in the dialogue and activities in the weeks since then and for that I am very appreciative.

You will hear more about the college’s diversity initiatives over the course of the spring, including ongoing training and education on campus; community conversations; hiring of staff positions with diversity and inclusion efforts as key responsibilities for them, and programming that celebrates our diversity. As a result of our conversations with the BSA, the officers of the college, myself included, have made a commitment to communicate more frequently, by email and on the web as well as in regular “town hall” style meetings to discuss issues and concerns from students. These communications will include regular updates on the progress we are making on the specific initiatives outlined in the inclusion and diversity plan.

I want to thank the members of BSA, the SGA, and so many other student leaders who have engaged in productive dialogue over the last several weeks. We know we still have much to do and I hope this level of involvement continues. This work is so vital to making Wheaton a more inclusive community and I look forward to working with each of you on this goal in the new year.

Best wishes for the holiday season and a restful and productive January break.

Dennis M. Hanno
Wheaton College