We have much more to do

To the campus community,

It seems that almost daily we are confronted with news about how issues related to inclusion and diversity are affecting the world, and much more specifically college campuses. On our own campus, we have been challenged with reminders that we are far from perfect. The flyers that appeared in the Meadows residential complex early in the semester provided a clear demonstration that not everyone is prepared to respect others. That incident and subsequent conversations and events have highlighted the overall campus climate issues that challenge us to truly be an inclusive community. It is clear that we have a lot of work to do, and I am committed to the idea that we can do much better. We have to and we will.

While many people have already dedicated much time to these important issues, I wanted to challenge us all to continue to be engaged and to work together to strive for a better Wheaton. We need more opportunities to take constructive action, such as the event that occurred last Thursday night organized by student leaders from a broad cross-section of campus organizations. The event brought more than 100 students together to discuss the national issues related to race on college campuses and to explore these same issues here at Wheaton. We have had several programs and activities during November related to Native Peoples Heritage Month. The Filene Center is offering a session this week in which alums will share their experiences related to diversity and multiculturalism. There are events and dialogues happening this week related to International Education Week. This is only part of a long list of activities that have occurred this semester, and perhaps the most important message from all of these is the need for even more engagement and action.

The Council on Inclusion and Diversity (CID) continues to lead the way by developing and promoting activities related to Building Community Together, our year-long effort to create an environment of openness and mutual respect and appreciation. CID organized two days of intensive workshops that engaged more than 400 people from across campus, and has promoted many other events that focus on appreciating difference. In the spring, we are working with the Black Student Association to create a series of events honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. The keynote speaker, scheduled for February 25, will be Clint Smith (www.clintsmithiii.com), whose TED Talks on The Danger of Silence and How to Raise a Son in Black America have been viewed more than four million times. In March, we will host the Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington (www.washingtonconsultinggroup.net/jamie-washington/), noted consultant on creating positive change around issues of diversity on college campuses. He will work across campus to engage all of us in the difficult conversations we must have if we are to build a stronger and more inclusive community.

To create a more welcoming and inclusive environment, we must also focus on creating more diversity in our faculty and staff. Provost Linda Eisenmann has been working with faculty search committees to stress the importance of this in the searches we are currently conducting. To further this goal at the highest levels of administration, I have asked two members of the Council on Inclusion and Diversity to join the search committee for the next provost and represent our collective efforts at building a stronger and more inclusive community. I am pleased that Professor Peony Fhagen and Janet Ray, Associate Director of the Center for Global Education, both members of CID, have accepted the opportunity to serve in this capacity.

Beginning this week, I will hold regular conversations specifically dedicated to collecting direct feedback and input on campus climate issues. I will schedule these conversations throughout the remainder of this semester and next semester at different times and with different groups to provide an opportunity for all to engage directly with me. I would like to invite any student interested in discussing these issues to a conversation this Friday afternoon (November 20) from 3:30 to 5:00 PM. I will be joined by Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Kate Kenny. We’ll host this meeting in the Faculty Dining Room in Emerson. Snacks and beverages will be served. Please join us to help us all develop ways to take strong action.

I know that there is not one right way to address these complex issues. However, one thing is essential: your participation and your willingness to engage in conversations that are uncomfortable. That is a challenge for us all, myself included, but there is no place more fitting to confront issues of race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, than on our college campus. It is part of the college’s educational mission to grapple with difficult topics, to stretch our horizons and to do so with respect and civility for each other.

While much has been done this semester, so much more remains to be done. We continue to be open to other ideas on how best to engage the community and improve campus culture. If you have a proposal, please contact me or any member of the Council on Inclusion in Diversity (https://wheatoncollege.edu/president/council-on-inclusion-and-diversity/) to share your thoughts. Thank you for engaging in this work that is so important for all of us.

D. Hanno

Dennis Hanno
Wheaton College