A Follow-up to Yesterday's Community Conversation
Posted on November 14, 2012
November 14, 2012
Dear Wheaton Students,
How can any one 75-minute meeting produce such a diversity of reactions from those in attendance? I guess it's when those in attendance come from such different perspectives themselves. That is both the best and hardest thing about Wheaton: we are a community of different ideas, experiences and viewpoints. That is our strength. But such differences can thwart us as we try to preserve our rightful places in that very community.
Since yesterday at 5 pm, I have received numerous emails, and had several conversations, with many of you. It seems as though each comment made by every individual at yesterday's meeting has been deconstructed in an attempt to discern its meaning and merit. Some examples I've heard? I said too much about something, says one of you. I said too little about that same thing, says another. We shared too many specifics. We were too general in what we shared. This was an isolated incident. This sort of thing happens all the time. Students are to blame. The administration is to blame.
As Oscar Wilde said, "The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple." Nonetheless, we owe it to Wheaton--to the 177 years of students, staff and faculty who have gone before us and those who will come after us--to pursue it with integrity. And that is what we will do.
In the immediate: We will continue to try and determine who was responsible for the bias incident at 17 Howard. We will also investigate, with equal determination, the recent bias incident at the softball field, which was also in the form of hateful, scrawled comments. We will follow up on every report of disrespectful and hurtful activity and will hold our Honor Code up as our goal. Our Honor Code is aspirational. It is a vision for our community. Someone once described "vision" as "a target that beckons," and we will continue to keep our eyes on that target as we move closer toward it with every day and every action.
I’d like to announce a plan from the Division of Student Affairs: Blue Table. These will be unmoderated and informal conversations over lunch with any student who wants to join in. There will be at least one staff member there, but the purpose is to encourage conversation among students. The first of these will happen this Friday, November 16, in Chase Square at 12:30ish. I will be at a table, which I’ll cover with a blue tablecloth so I’m easy to find. If you’d like to join me, please do. No agenda other than sharing what you’re thinking about—reactions, ideas, concerns. We will continue these, in both Chase and Emerson, after Thanksgiving.
The Student Government Association has taken up the charge, and will communicate directly with you about their plans for a major campus initiative. Resident Advisors are also working on ways to address these and related issues.
There are no easy answers, as you are reminded of every day in your classes. But the questions are worth asking, and these conversations will allow us to do that. Several of you said (so I assume others also thought) that you wished we had meetings like yesterday's more often. I wish the same thing, and I will find a way to do that. But we have to do this work together or it means nothing. Over 250 of you put your names on paper yesterday in that meeting, and I will take that to assume you want to continue this conversation.
Communities larger, older, richer, than our little college have been crushed by the kinds of challenges we face. But we will not be. I just need you to believe in this place and commit your considerable talents to pursuing that vision stated clearly in the Honor Code, committing to act "honestly, responsibly and, above all, with honor and integrity in all areas of campus life." It's hard to argue with that goal.