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:
- To ensure that students of color and all affected students receive the appropriate support from the institution in the wake of this incident.
- To hold the involved parties accountable for their actions.
- 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.
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 "WhiteChicks" 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 protectintersectionality.
- 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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