The Wheaton community has always been about warmth, welcoming and acceptance. Today, in that tradition of inclusivity, we proudly announce that the Alumnae/i Board of Directors of Wheaton College has voted to update the association name to the Wheaton College Alumni Association. This new name removes gender-specific grouping and welcomes graduates of all gender identities in our thriving community. We believe this update continues our community’s historic values and our mission as an association.
“The Alumni Board of Directors serves as an inclusive voice of and for the alumni. In keeping with the college’s mission, the Board strives to foster meaningful connections and engagement between and among alumni, future alumni and the college.”
What is the purpose of changing the name?
The association’s name change is meant to welcome all alumni, regardless of gender. This is about inclusion and diversity. The new name recognizes members of our community whose gender identity is fluid or non-binary.
If the goal is inclusion, why not use a completely neutral term, such as alumnx? Alumni is not gender neutral. It’s the masculine form of the word.
The term “alumni” is overwhelming used and understood today as a gender neutral term. While the original Latin referred to men, it is now used without respect to gender. Latin’s male/female forms of the word (as represented by our current term, alumni) enforces a binary gender identity choice that is unwelcoming to some members of the Wheaton community. Other terms were considered by the Board, but rejected as not easily understood without explanation, thus creating a barrier to communication.
Why is the Alumni Association taking this step now?
It all began with current students. Individuals shared that they did not feel heard or represented by a name that imposed a strict “male / female” gender identity. Those conversations prompted the Alumni Association to update the name to welcome all individuals in our community. The college has already made changes to reflect this gender-neutral approach, such as revising the Wheaton diploma to be gender neutral and re-assigning public, single-use restrooms across campus to be gender neutral.
How does this fit Wheaton’s historic commitment to equality?
We believe that we are keeping faith with the college’s historic commitment to equality, inclusivity and diversity. In recent decades, the college has continually expanded its reach to include individuals from diverse communities, most notably people of color and citizens from around the world. Today’s student body represents more than 70 countries and nearly 40 U.S. states and territories. International students account for 18 percent of overall enrollment; people of color, 21 percent.
For more than a half-dozen years, the Alumni Association has implemented numerous strategies to increase the number of graduates engaged with the association and the college. These efforts have included a wider variety of programming, the development of affinity group activities and proactive outreach to underrepresented groups within the Wheaton College alum constituency. Recent examples include:
- Young alumni networking receptions organized across the country
- Affinity groups such as the LGBTQ Alumni organization
- The Alumni of Color celebration planned for spring 2018
What was the process for making this decision?
The Fall meeting of the Alumni Board of Directors took place October 14 and 15. The members of the Alumni Board of Directors, who are elected and appointed to represent the interests of the Wheaton graduates, placed the item on the meeting agenda. After a thoughtful and comprehensive discussion, the members of the Alumni Board voted unanimously to adopt the updated name. This action, like many others that the Alumni Board of Directors has taken over the years, is motivated by our goal to promote a spirit of welcome and inclusion for all alumni and further our commitment to the diversity of alumni participating in the life of the college.
Does this change mean the website, campus offices and others will change as well?
President Dennis M. Hanno and the administration of the college have indicated their support for the change, and they intend to update college offices and materials by the start of 2018.
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