Hold Wheaton College MA accountable for blackface and racial injustice

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Statement from Members of the Alumni  Community:


Members of the Wheaton College Administration,


Together, we –  members of the alumni community, in support of the active student body – make the following demands in response to the recent blackface incident at Wheaton College. As the involved parties’ subsequent attempts to cover up the incident prove, this is not simply a matter of education. The young women were fully aware of their actions and proceeded to participate anyway. They were also “judged” and “awarded” by their peers for this “performance.” Given these facts, we are urging you to respond in a manner that sends a strong message: we do not tolerate racism in our community and there are consequences for such behavior.

This subset of the alumni community has three priorities:

  1. To ensure that students of color and all affected students receive the appropriate support from the institution in the wake of this incident.
  2. To hold the involved parties accountable for their actions.
  3. To encourage members of the Wheaton College Administration to take the necessary steps to prevent this event from repeating itself.

Student groups have performed the labor of responding to racism, cultural appropriation, and offensive Halloween costumes for many years. However, we believe that is not the job of the oppressed to continue to educate their peers and the institution itself must play a larger role to combat racism. This incident is part of a larger issue and speaks to the culture of Wheaton’s campus. The Black Student Association has yet again initiated dialogue, and has drafted a full list of demands, which we adamantly stand behind.

This incident is not new to Wheaton, and the recurring nature of these events demands a continuous response. We are demanding a plan that holds all involved parties accountable for their actions, along with measures and protocols to ensure these incidents are prevented in the future. It is of the utmost importance that current students receive the support they need, and we as alumni stand by their requests and demands.

This incident provides Wheaton with an opportunity to set an example to demonstrate the values they have built a persona around. After decades of projecting an image of diversity and dedication to social justice, it is now time to prove it.

Wheaton College depends upon alumni to regularly donate and participate in official events and communications. Those of us behind this letter are unable to lend our support to an institution that does not truly value its students of color. Anti-blackness, xenophobia, racism, and other seeds of bigotry are still active in the community, and yet again it has been left up to the students affected to respond and educate their offensive peers. Until Wheaton is willing to address the issues at hand, enforce appropriate disciplinary actions for those involved, and genuinely invest in its marginalized students, we cannot take pride in our alma mater. Furthermore, we will continue to publicize this incident and bring awareness to other instances of racism and bigotry on campus until the institution responds appropriately.

To summarize our request: our only hope is that Wheaton College stands by the community values that it has claimed to adhere to. As the institution becomes more diverse, it is extremely important that the needs of the student body are met. Students of color should be able to learn and grow in an environment without having to wonder whether their classmates participate in minstrel shows during the weekend.

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Statement from the Black ​​Student ​​Association and Allies:

Our ​​fundamental​​ concern ​​is​​ that ​​Wheaton​ ​College ​​does ​​not ​​proactively ​​support ​​students ​​of ​​color. ​​It ​​appears​ ​not​ ​to take​ ​initiative, ​​preferring ​​instead ​​to ​​be ​​reactive. ​​We​ ​should ​​not ​​have ​​to ​​make ​​the​ ​following ​​demands. ​​They ​​are ​​in​ ​line with ​​the ​​stated ​​values​ ​and ​​identity ​​of ​​Wheaton​ ​College, ​​and ​​should ​​have ​​been ​​accomplished ​​already, ​​simply​ ​as ​​a matter ​​of​ ​course. ​​All ​​of ​​the ​​following​ ​demands ​​are ​​written​ ​with​ ​the ​​best ​​interests​ ​of ​​Wheaton​ ​College ​​in ​​mind.

  • We​​ demand​​ that ​​the ​​administration​​ agree​​ to​​ a ​​strategic​ ​timeline​​ around​​ meeting ​​these​​ demands, ​​to​​ be ​​created​​ in consultation ​​with ​​the ​​Black ​​Student Association.
  • We demand that the college publish a report on the results of this strategic timeline. The report should  include not only data on the diversity of Wheaton students, staff and faculty as well as the retention rate of students, staff and faculty of color. This should also include a list of incidents of bias and the college’s choice of disciplinary action.
  • We​​ demand​​ that​​ the​ ​students ​​involved ​​in​​ portraying​​ "White​​Chicks" ​​through ​​costume ​​be​​ removed ​​from ​​their extracurricular​​ activities ​​and ​​campus ​​employment.
  • We​​ demand ​​all ​​athletes ​​and ​​athletic​​ staff​​ watch ​​the​​ Spike ​​Lee ​​film,​​“Bamboozled,”​​ and ​​participate ​​in ​​a ​​debrief, facilitated​​ by relevant​​ faculty ​​and ​​staff.
  • We demand an explicit clause on racism and bigotry be added to the Wheaton College Honor Code.
  • We demand that  Wheaton College develop a document that outlines how to handle/approach racist and racially-charged incidents on campus, and that outlines the potential punishment(s) for when these incidences occur.
  • We​​ demand ​​that ​​Wheaton​​ College ​​bolster​​ the ​​'First ​​Year​​ Seminar’ and ​​'Beyond ​​The ​​West ​​requirements ​​by ​​creating and ​​enforcing ​​comprehensive ​​racial​​ systemic​​ oppression ​​awareness​​ and ​​inclusion ​​curriculum ​​throughout​​ all​​ campus departments​​ and ​​units,​​ mandatory ​​for ​​all​​ students, ​​faculty, ​​staff,​​ and administration.​​ This​​ curriculum ​​must ​​be​​ vetted, maintained,​​ and​​ overseen​​ by ​​a ​​board ​​comprised ​​of ​​students ​​staff, ​​and ​​faculty ​​of ​​color.
  • We​​ demand​​ an ​​increase ​​in​​ funding, ​​resources, ​​and​​ personnel ​​for ​​the ​​Marshall​​ Center ​​for​​ Intercultural​​ Learning, ​​the Center ​​for ​​Social ​​Justice​​ and ​​Community ​​Impact, ​​and ​​the​​ Center ​​for​​ Religious ​​and​​ Spiritual​​ Life, ​​and ​​other ​​relevant departments, ​​for ​​the​​ purpose ​​of​​ hiring ​​additional​​ professionals, ​​particularly​ those​​ of color.
  • We​​ demand ​​that ​​at​​ the​​ minimum, ​​the ​​national​​ percentage​​ of​​ people​​ of​​ color ​​in​​ this ​​country ​​will​​ be ​​reflected​​ in​​ the employees​​ of​​ the ​​college. ​​Further,​​ we​​ demand ​​that​​ these​​ proportions ​​be​​ represented ​​in ​​each college ​​division, ​​not​​ just the​​ college​​ overall. ​​In​​ particular,​​ we ​​demand​​ the​​ hiring​​ of​​ a ​​more​​ diverse ​​staff ​​in ​​the​​ Counseling​​ Center​​ and ​​in Public ​​Safety. 
  • We​​ demand​​ that ​​Intercultural​​ Dialogue ​​be​​ required​​ for ​​all ​​first-year ​​students.
  • We​​ demand​​ that​​ Wheaton​​ College ​​demonstrate ​​concern​​ for​​ personal​​ dignity ​​and ​​refuse ​​to ​​tolerate ​​its ​​disrespect.
  • We​ demand ​​that​​ Wheaton​​ College​​ live ​​up ​​to ​​its ​​stated ​​values,​​ to​​ promote​​ and​​ protect​​intersectionality.​
  • We​​ retain​​ the ​​right ​​to​​ add​​ to​​ our​​ demands ​​as ​​we​​ see​​ fit, ​​keeping​​ in ​​mind ​​the ​​ways ​in ​​which ​​oppression ​​is intersectionally ​​complex.

 



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