Show your support for Black Students at Wellesley College
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June 19, 2020
To Wellesley College Senior Administration, Board of Trustees, Class Deans, Faculty, and all members of the Wellesley College community:
It is with great pain, frustration, and outrage that we address you all today. Spurred by the execution of George Floyd, Black communities in the U.S. and worldwide have united to abolish state-sanctioned violence carried out by the police, prisons, and the criminal “justice” system. This anti-Black violence is not limited to the Prison Industrial Complex, it pervades every system, including healthcare, education, housing, etc. We not only seek to dismantle these systems, but to also create a world instead defined by life-affirming institutions. We want Wellesley College to be a part of this.
Anti-Black racism, embedded in the history and framework of our country, exists everywhere, including at Wellesley College. Wellesley College, as a racist institution, must take responsibility for its role in the systemic oppression of Black people, both on campus and in the world. In order to achieve real justice, Wellesley must take steps towards healing. To do this, Wellesley must listen to and implement the demands of its Black students.
Wellesley’s campus is hostile towards Black students. Between racism from faculty and students alike, the experience of Black students at Wellesley can be isolating. For decades the Black students on campus have fought to initiate change and improve the lives of Black people, both on campus and in the world. In 1968, Black students from Ethos met and created a list of demands for Wellesley College. Their fervor and passion for creating an environment where Black students can succeed is felt within their list. Again in 2015, members of Harambee House organizations drafted another list of demands and presented it to the Wellesley College administration. They were making the same demands, reflecting the fact that not much had significantly changed in those 47 years. It is absolutely asinine that over 50 years later we are making again, the same demands from administration. The feelings of distrust towards Wellesley College administration comes from the lack of action on their part.
Wellesley College Administration and Board of Trustees, we ask you: Why do you continuously ignore Black students?
Wellesley College administration needs to listen to their Black students in order to make real structural changes. We are giving you the necessary information on what the Black student body needs to thrive at Wellesley. We would like to see a meaningful and transparent response from the College. Wellesley College can no longer remain silent, it must take action. Wellesley College needs to demonstrate their commitment to Black lives, both on and off campus. This includes meeting the demands of Black students at Wellesley College. We believe in a Wellesley College that invests in Black students’ safety, wellbeing, and growth. We hope you do too.
Concerned and angered Black radical students of Wellesley College
Below are a set of demands we believe the college should implement most expeditiously to ensure a more inclusive social climate and greater commitment to People of African Descent at Wellesley College.
We demand the immediate abolition of Wellesley College Campus Police. Police do not keep us safe, they promote fear and perpetuate harm for Black students on campus. We demand a police-free campus, and we want to replace policing with a community-led accountability process and a transformative model of public safety. Other colleges have successfully done so, and we should too.
We demand that Wellesley College integrate transformative justice practices into Residential Life and Honor Code Council disciplinary and conflict resolution procedures. Transformative justice offers more opportunities for growth and healing than our current processes, which are dependent on punitive action and policing. Outcomes should be determined by a collaboration among responsible parties, harmed parties, and facilitators/mediators.
We demand the reallocation of student jobs at Campus Police to other departments. The work carried out by dispatch assistants and student drivers is essential to the College’s function, but it does not have to be carried out under the purview of a police department. The Office of Student Life and the Department of Accessibility and Disability Services would be more fitting alternatives. We suggest subsidizing EMT training for students and employing them as well.
We demand the immediate disarmament of all Wellesley College Campus Police. College police must stop carrying all weapons. Wellesley College must also stop funding arms training for all Wellesley College Police. These must be in effect until the Campus Police Department is abolished.
We demand that Wellesley College divest from the prison-industrial complex, the fossil fuel industry, and Israel. Wellesley College should be more transparent about their investment practices, and the College must stop profiting off of institutions that negatively affect Black people across the diaspora.
We demand that Wellesley College match the sum of donations made by each Wellesley College community member. Wellesley College should be held financially accountable for mobilizing its endowment in support of racial justice. Donations should be made by the College to organizations dedicated to bailing out protestors, rebuilding Black businesses and communities that have been adversely affected, and fighting police brutality and anti-Black racism in America. These organizations should have missions that reflect that of Families for Justice as Healing and The Okra Project.STUDENT LIFE
We demand that Wellesley College increase the number of Black students at Wellesley to 12%. Since 1968, students have been fighting for the percentage of black students to be 10% of the student population. In 2016, a goal was set to maintain the Black student population at 12% by the 2019-2020 academic year. We are currently 5.9% of the student body. This is completely unacceptable and must be addressed immediately.
We demand that Wellesley College bring back Black Student Orientation. Black Student Orientation helped introduce Black students to on- and off-campus resources and build community with Black students, faculty, and staff. Reinstating a two to three day event during orientation week that would focus solely on Black life and academics at Wellesley for the incoming first-years would be very beneficial. Black students, faculty, and staff should develop that programming.
We demand that Wellesley College establish Black student housing. On a campus that is at times isolating and hostile towards Black students, Black students deserve to have a living community that encourages their personal and academic development. We demand a living space on campus dedicated to Black students alone. Due to the historical relegation of Black students to Munger Hall, we request that this living space be in another dormitory.
We demand that Wellesley College establish a Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender-non conforming living corridor. On a campus that is hostile and not accommodating for Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender-non conforming students, we demand that they are provided a living community that allows them to feel safe, encourages their personal development, and builds community. Providing a living space for Trans, Non-Binary, and Gender-non conforming students would reduce the microaggresions they face from other students in bathrooms and other living spaces. We request that they will have the choice of choosing the location of their living corridor and the President of Siblings would be the standing RA. This would ensure that someone who is a part of the community and understands the students would be best to ensure that all their needs are met.
We demand that Wellesley College provide systemic bias and transformative justice training for administrators, faculty, residential life leaders, and student organization e-board members. Our current “unconscious bias” is lacking, centering white fragility and demanding Black students share their trauma. Resource sheets and one-day lessons about white privilege do not adequately prepare the leaders of our community for roles in which they must cultivate community and mediate conflicts. In order for them to truly understand how their roles affect campus culture, they must be trained in systemic bias and transformative justice by a vetted organization. The vetting process must include Black students’ input.
We demand that Wellesley College get rid of the equation that allocates SOFC funds to organizations. The current equation that the Bursar’s office uses cuts funding by the same percentage for everyone, which puts cultural organizations, like those housed in Harambee, at a disadvantage. Black student organizations contribute more to this campus’ culture than is reflected by our funding flow from SOFC, and we demand more transparency in the process.
We demand that Wellesley College SOFC re-visit the process of passing capital goods applications. In order to receive funding, students are currently required to justify the necessity of the goods in their applications for SOFC’s approval. SOFC has historically not understood Black students’ needs, which has translated into underfunding of Black student organizations. Black students should not have to prove their worth to SOFC, and SOFC must work harder to improve their relationship with Black student organizations.
We demand that Wellesley College allows Black student organizations to have a procard for their use. The refund process discriminates against lower-income students. Not everyone has the funds to front money and wait weeks to receive a refund, and the current Procard rules prevent Black student organizations from spending their allocated SOFC funds.
We demand that Wellesley provide more mental health resources for Black and/or LGBTQ+ students. We have a growing number of students who are Black and identify as LGBTQ+ who need counseling, but students’ concerns are usually dismissed and minimized by non-Black therapists. The Stone Center staff includes one Black woman, Director of the Counseling Service Dr. Robin Cooke-Nobles; however, her ability to be available for Black students is limited, and the retention rate for new Black Stone Center hires has been very low. Black students should always have access to a long-term Black mental health professional that understands how race, culture, gender, and sexuality affect their day-to-day life.
We demand that Wellesley College set up a mental health fund for Black students.
Black students suffer from undue stress during their time at Wellesley and are unable to access mental health resources at the Stone Center due to the lack of black therapists and/or a lack of economic stability. Wellesley College must take steps to rectify this.
We demand that Wellesley College set up a reparations fund for Black students.
Wellesley College continues to benefit from the legacy of slavery. In order to achieve equity, Black students must be able to have the resources necessary to thrive on campus and beyond.
We demand that the multicultural requirement be refocused on structural inequality and systemic anti-black racism. Currently, the multicultural requirement can be fulfilled by a course that focuses on “the processes of racism, social or ethnic bias, or cross-cultural interaction.” This should be the foundation for every class that fulfills this requirement, and courses fulfilling the requirement should be offered in the arts, humanities, AND the sciences. Non-Black students must be made aware of how anti-Blackness, systemic racism, and structural violence are perpetuated by themselves and their respective fields of interest.
We demand that the QR requirement be replaced with MATH 115Z or a pre-introductory statistics course. The QR 140 classes are typically filled with students of color, and the curriculum does not teach students the necessary information they would need in order to succeed in future STEM classes. We propose that the QR requirement should be replaced with a class like MATH 115Z, which prepares students from under resourced schools to be integrated into majors that require a stronger mathematical foundation. Such classes should fulfill the mathematical modeling distribution requirement.
We demand that Wellesley College hire more Black faculty on tenure track. Wellesley currently employs eleven Black teaching faculty, and five belong to the Africana Studies department. We demand that more Black faculty members are hired in the next hiring cycle for every academic department and are given roles that add value to the respective department and are supported by the school to succeed. This includes opportunities for leadership and the ability to receive tenure. This change stems across every single academic department at Wellesley. Black students should be able to take a Biology course and see a Black professor.
We demand that Wellesley College hold faculty and staff members accountable for their racism. Staff members must be held accountable for their racist actions in and out of the classroom. Currently, the Title IX office is supposed to handle these issues, but they do not address racist situations involving faculty. We would like to see their office handle issues of staff racism and hold them accountable for these actions through the Honor Code system. We should be able to Honor Code faculty and staff. Faculty and Staff must be held accountable for their actions, and must make concrete progress to address it. If not, they should be fired.
We demand that Wellesley College invest in and expand the Africana Studies department. The Africana Studies department serves as a safe haven for Black students to learn and discuss their identities in an academic setting, and it presents opportunities for non-Black students to negotiate their relationship to race. We demand that more resources and funding are poured into this department. We also ask that more classes in this department have a focus on critical race theory or Black theory in general. Beyond the history and literature-focused courses the department currently offers, courses on theory and the diaspora such as those on Black psychology and Black women in the workplace, offered by previous faculty member Ophera Davis, should be offered.
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