Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College

Campus Life

So Long, Seniors!

Posted on May 15, 2011

D-log, May 15, 2011

So it's time to say see ya, seniors, and send you on your way into the world beyond Wheaton, where great things await you (provided you have studied reasonably hard and behaved yourselves reasonably well;  if that's not the case, I'm not offering any guarantees).

It's truly a great time of year.  Finals are over, the last geranium has been planted, and many of you have left campus to begin your summer adventures all over the world.  And all that stands between me and my summer adventures are…Senior Week and Commencement/Reunion Weekend.   It starts on Monday with the Thesis Parade, and will conclude after Commencement with various reunion activities all over campus, where the men and women of earlier Wheaton days will sit around and reminisce about Dimple-diving, Jay Goodman's classes, going co-ed, and things that I, as the dean, don't really want to know about (some things never change).

It's been a good year for me, and I hope you can say the same for yourself.  I have learned a lot, had a lot of fun with colleagues, tried some things that didn't work, tried some things that worked really well, watched some winning games and some losses, did not fall off my Razor, but did trip numerous times on the loose pavers in front of the Science Center door.  So here's a quick report on some things you may have wondered about.

A year ago, Professor Kersti Yllo and I led a meeting in the Chapel in the wake of an alleged sexual assault.  Students said pretty clearly that they wanted a better understanding of the process Wheaton uses to respond to sexual misconduct, and, in fact, might even want a different process.  Professor Yllo  was kind enough to accept my invitation to co-chair, along with a very new Associate Dean and Director of Residential Life Kate McCaffrey and two capable students, Emily Firment and Max Enos, a group called the Sexual (Mis)Conduct Assembly.  The co-chairs sought help from all over campus to take on the formidable tasks of reviewing all of our processes and policies, our educational efforts, and our support for alleged victims of sexual assault and sexual misconduct.  The Assembly will present a formal report in just a few days, but I can assure you that we have not waited for the formal report to start making positive changes, some of which I'll list here:

  • We have restructured our Sexual Assault Response Team into SMART (Sexual Misconduct and Assault Resources Team), which now will have faculty and student members, and will oversee the outreach and education efforts related to sexual misconduct.
  • We added hours to an existing position in the Counseling Center and this summer will hire a SMART coordinator who will devote at least 10 hours a week to these efforts.
  • We applied for a $300,000 grant from the Office of Violence Against Women, and if we get this three-year grant, will have ample funding to work closely with New Hope, the local rape crisis center, on regular training and outreach, along with other services.  If we don't get the grant, we will still build these important relationships, though will not be able to do as much.
  • We revamped the website to provide more and better information about what to do if you or a friend are a victim of sexual assault.
  • This summer, we will rebuild our entire conduct process and create a new administrative hearing board comprised of faculty and staff who will be thoroughly trained in adjudicating sexual assault and sexual misconduct matters.  We will also receive training on new techniques in investigating sexual assault charges.

I am grateful to the members of the Assembly, especially its co-chairs and its workgroup chairs.  Their efforts will make a real difference in the lives of students at Wheaton.

I've also been thrilled to see the work of the Yellow Wood Commission, and encourage you to read and react to their report.  I look forward to working with the groups that will develop out of this plan to provide a better alcohol policy, better programming, better education and better support for students who are struggling with high-risk drinking behaviors.  I'm especially proud of the 18 Wheaton students who made the very big commitment to take an Emergency Medical Technician class this semester and will become our first class of Wheaton First Responders in the fall.

I'm really excited about the Science Center, but can't take any credit for that.

I'm incredibly pleased by the changes I've seen in the Department of Residential Life this year, especially in the way that RAs have stepped up.  Our program is only as good as our frontline staff, and those of you joining the team next year have some big shoes to fill.

The purchase I'm most proud of:  the pedestrian crossing signs on East Main Street.

Team of the year?  Women's tennis.  A tremendous season.  I'm sorry to see these very talented seniors take leave of us, but know they will continue to represent Wheaton well.

And speaking of Wheaton athletics:  I think my favorite moment of the entire year didn't happen here in Norton.  It happened in San Antonio where I watched Merzudin Ibric receive the NCAA Inspiration Award, and heard him thank his coach and others at Wheaton, and I was reminded what a special place this is.  Wheaton gives people chances, and sometimes that's all they need.

My second favorite moment?  Might be the visit from Cameron Stewart and Grace Ferguson-Pell last week, who brought me a game ball commemorating the first ever "home game" of our two terrific rugby clubs.

Third favorite moment wasn't really a moment, fortunately.  I left the Chapel about one minute before the streaker arrived to entertain the freshmen who were gathered for the Candle-lighting Ceremony.  Phew!  That was close.

There were many more, but I'll keep them here in my heart and share when appropriate.  If you've been part of them, though, please know how grateful I am.  I am honored to be your dean, and thrilled at the many ways you share your lives, your thoughts, your opinions, your spirit, your humor and your affection for Wheaton with me.

Seniors?  My final words to you (other than reading your 400 or so names next Saturday) are some of my favorite words, courtesy of the most excellent songwriter Jackson Browne, who wrote a wonderful song called "For a Dancer" back when you had to buy your music on vinyl.  It's a great song—download it asap.  And it's what I hope you'll be singing as you drive off from Wheaton, for the last time as a student, and for the first time as an alumna/us:

"Keep a fire for the human race
Let your prayers go drifting into space
You never know what will be coming down
Perhaps a better world is drawing near
And just as easily it could all disappear
Along with whatever meaning you might have found
Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
Go on and make a joyful sound

Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie the reason you were alive
But you'll never know."

Adios, dancers.  Make that joyful sound.  You are ready for your next step.


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