This message was sent to the Wesleyan faculty, staff, and students earlier today:
From: “Michael S. Roth”
Date: Tuesday, May 3, 2016 at 2:07 PM
Subject: Final Report of the Equity Task Force
This past weekend I received the final report from the Equity Task Force. One can clearly see how much hard work and engaged thinking went into the committee’s deliberations, and I am very grateful for the efforts of all its members: Gina Athena Ulysse (Faculty and Tri-Chair), Elisa Cardona (Staff), Antonio Farias (Staff and Tri-Chair), Matthew Garrett (Faculty), William Johnston (Faculty), Makaela Kingsley (Staff), Caroline Liu (Student), Henry Martellier, Jr. (Student), and Shardonay Pagett (Student and Tri-Chair).
The report is labeled an intervention in history, and it is vital that we seize this moment to improve the educational experience for all Wesleyan students, most especially those who have felt marginalized by practices of this institution, past or present.
You will see that the main body of the report has three major recommendations. The first is to develop a Center with an “intellectually grounded mission in Social Justice and a focus on intercultural development and literacy.” The Appendix on a Gender Resource Center (important in its own right) gives some idea of what such a center might look like. The second recommendation is to devote significant resources toward redressing long-term issues of discrimination and marginalization, especially as this affects the composition of our faculty and staff as well as the development of the curriculum. The third recommendation calls for a standing institutional committee to coordinate, communicate and support change in these areas.
Although I have only had a short time to digest the report, I can say that we will move forward immediately on all three recommendations. We will plan a Center within the time frame suggested that will enable students to deepen their education and enhance their ability to thrive on campus – especially those groups of students who have struggled against legacies of discrimination. This will build on the accomplishments of student activists, and also of professors and staff members who have worked hard to make this university a more equitable and inclusive place. Of course, this means a place that thoughtfully engages with different ideas of what constitutes justice, diversity, individual rights and political freedom. Our differences can make us stronger.
As per the second recommendation, we will add to the considerable resources we have already dedicated to recruiting and supporting students, faculty and staff from under-represented groups. Through the efforts of VP for Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias and Provost Joyce Jacobsen, we will continue to aggressively pursue opportunities to diversify the faculty. Furthermore, by doing things like replacing loans with grants for low-income students and improving employment conditions for student workers, our goal is to ensure that all students have every opportunity to excel in all sectors of the curriculum and co-curricular activities. As called for in the third recommendation, we will establish a committee to coordinate our efforts and measure their outcomes.
In news very much related to issues of inclusion, we are announcing today that in future admissions cycles Wesleyan will consider undocumented and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applicants who have graduated from a U.S. high school as if they were U.S. citizens or permanent residents. You can read more about that decision here.
Please do read the report and its appendices. It is an important intervention in Wesleyan University’s history. We will build on this good work to make our campus an educationally empowering place for all who live and work here.
Michael S. Roth
This link provides the complete Final Report, pp. 1-10 as well as Appendix A: A Proposal For Wesleyan University Gender Resource Center, pp. 11-28 and Appendix B: Reports from Previous Committees: 1989, 1991, 1998, pp. 29-70.
An Intervention in 185 Years of Wesleyan History: Final Report of the Presidential Equity Task Force
April 30, 2016
The student movements that swept the nation and parts of the world in 2015 left educational institutions reeling. While one tendency has been to cast this reawakening as the persistent power of racism, another sees it as both a reckoning with the inheritance of the civil rights struggles of the twentieth century and a response to structural changes in higher education itself.
In the fall of 2015, a group of concerned Wesleyan students created the #IsThisWhy? campaign to address what they identified as a neglectful University administration and to, in its words, “fight back against the daily effects of white supremacy in academia.” A march of 500 students, staff, and faculty members ended with the release of demands on November 18, 2015 in solidarity with a National Day of Action across U.S. universities.
As educators, many among us are too aware that some students have the social luxury to be contemplative, while others by virtue of their differential positions, and hence preparation, are caught bearing the Sisyphean burden of effecting institutional change. By the time our students reach Wesleyan, they only know—and have only been rewarded for—juggling, balancing, and oversubscribing. This volatile environment is a reality for all students at Wesleyan. Negotiating historical marginalization exacerbates the problem for some.
Wesleyan’s History, 1831-2016
In 1832, the second year of Wesleyan’s existence, the University faced its first crisis of diversity. That year, Wilbur Fisk, then the President (as well as Chief Admissions Officer) of the University had admitted Charles Bennett Ray, Wesleyan’s first African American student. Fisk had known Ray as a student at the Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, where he had obtained his secondary education. Ray had dedicated himself to becoming a Methodist minister, and Fisk saw him as a serious student. At the same time, Fisk did not want to alienate Methodists in the Southern states, and had consulted a Southern student’s parent from Georgia, Josiah Flournoy, who himself was a slave owner. Flournoy saw no objection to Ray’s admission.
Yet within weeks of Ray’s admission, objections began. Once he came to take meals with the other students on campus, many of the Southern students, as well as some from the North, objected to his presence. A number threatened to withdraw from Wesleyan unless Ray was thrown out. At that point Ray declared that he no longer wished to remain at Wesleyan, but Fisk asked him to stay, and called on the Board of Trustees to make a final decision. The Board voted against “Mr. Ray’s continuing [as] a member of this institution.” Subsequently, Ray went to New York City and became co-owner and editor of an abolitionist newspaper, The Colored American, among other accomplishments.
Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees voted in 1835 to allow African American students admission to the University, but there is no record of any graduating before 1859. The damage had been done, and until the 1960s only very small numbers of Black students graduated from Wesleyan.
That first crisis of diversity has been repeated, in different iterations, throughout the University’s 185- year history. Founded as a men’s college, Wesleyan first admitted women in 1872, when Jennie Larned, Phebe Almeda Stone, Angie Villette Warren, and Hannah Ada Taylor enrolled as students. The University provided no housing for women until 1889, and the campus became increasingly hostile to their presence. In 1909, the Board of Trustees voted to end coeducation, and a student publication proclaimed, “The Barnacle is at last to be scraped from the keel of the good ship Wesleyan!” Women were admitted again provisionally in 1968 (as exchange or transfer students), and coeducation as such returned in 1970, nearly a century after the University’s first gesture toward gender equality.
As our account of these early chapters in Wesleyan’s long, incomplete history suggest, the University has repeatedly faced the challenge of dealing with matters of inclusion and discrimination. In our historical narrative, the Fisk takeover of February 21, 1969 is a turning point, marking a sea change in campus affairs. In February 1969, black students at Wesleyan requested that classes be cancelled in recognition of the assassination of Malcolm X four years earlier; the University administration rejected the request. In response, a group of black students, faculty, and staff occupied Fisk Hall, shutting down University business, and broadcasting Malcolm X’s speeches from the Language Lab to the audience outside the building. The occupiers issued a statement indicating that “we seek to dramatically expose the University’s infidelity to its professed goals and to question the sincerity of its commitment to meaningful change. We blaspheme and decry that education which is consonant with one cultural frame of reference to the exclusion of all others.” They also issued a list of demands, including the establishing of distinct housing and a cultural center for black students, the introduction of Black Studies classes to the curriculum, and an increase in the number of black students and faculty. Within a day, the takeover had ended, with the University administration agreeing to consider the demands. The reader of the present report will notice that the administration has taken a long time to consider them.
If we are going to progress beyond the repetition of these cycles in which crises are addressed with what in retrospect have been only temporary and incomplete measures, we need to have a better sense of what our history has been—both the histories that have been told, and those yet to be written that must be reclaimed. We cannot cultivate belonging without understanding how the past continues to configure the present.
In 1969, Wesleyan—along with colleges and universities across the nation—was so deeply segregated and saturated with tensions that it was characterized in the New York Times as “Two Nations.” The naive expectation that without active institutional interventions students would “automatically assimilate…into this historically white landscape,” as the late Edward Beckham put it, was eventually displaced by slightly more direct, proactive methods. To be sure, in the last three decades, Wesleyan has made attempts to recognize and address issues of difference based on race, ethnicity, sex, gender, class, and more. Yet, too often these have been merely ad hoc, with limited success at best. Undeniably, the same problems keep recurring. To begin to understand why, the Task Force examined relevant documents from University Archives and Special Collections dating from 1989, 1991, and 1998. We include these as Appendix B to this report.
In 1989, the University’s Committee on Human Rights and Relations examined specific problems of inclusion and discrimination on campus. Many of the problems articulated in the committee’s report are the same as those that students, as well as faculty and staff of color, still experience today. As a result of this historical reality, and the fact that numerous subsequent attempts to tackle these issues have not been successful, it is clear that we need to take action that both creates immediate improvement and establishes an infrastructure that will be nimble, responsive, and enduring.
Below, we comment briefly on these earlier reports and their key results. Our comments are far from comprehensive; our timing was limited and additional research will help to corroborate and nuance these findings.
In 1989 a report was produced by the Committee on Human Rights and Relations, which was formed in May 1980 to address sexual abuse on campus and discrimination faced by GLB (gay, lesbian, and bisexual) students. Almost immediately (by the Fall of 1980), this work was combined with issues of race, referencing both minority students and faculty. The report recommended that measures be conducted using established institutional channels (deans, faculty, and the Educational Policy Committee) to address ongoing problems. Specific problems recorded included concerns regarding curriculum, the hiring and promotion of minority faculty and staff, and tensions among students that reflected a hostile campus climate. It was noted that “[m]embers of the Wesleyan community seem poorly prepared for open discussion, reciprocal learning and intellectual growth through exploration of racial issues.”
As the report indicates, in 1989 an institutional framework for addressing these issues existed in the form of the Committee on Human Rights and Relations, which appears to have been the hub for reporting the status of ongoing initiatives. But around 1990 (that is, at the very moment when the committee’s report required action), that group seems to have been dissolved. As a result, the report’s recommendations were made without an ongoing point of accountability.
Our view (outlined in our recommendations, below) is that there is a strong need for a standing committee integrated within the University’s governance structure. As the 1989 report noted, ameliorating the campus situation “requires sustained attention and periodic review on an institution-wide level.” This need for continuous assessment of institutional efforts was a recurring point in later reports; it is also a point of great value to the Wesleyan community moving forward.
In February 1990, Wesleyan President William Chace formed the Presidential Commission on Racial Relations (PCRR); in August 1991, after seventeen months, the Commission presented its full report, which was printed and circulated to the entire campus at the start of the fall 1991 semester under the title “The Quality of Life of Persons of Color at Wesleyan: Recommendations for Its Enhancement.” The report noted, with some ambivalence, that Wesleyan had long been characterized by a tradition of “autonomy and fragmentation”; while these might be laudable traits in some cases, they had also worked “against reform.” The committee identified four areas in which attention was needed: recruitment and retention of faculty of color, curricular reform, and quality of life for staff, faculty, and students. We advise that the recommendations of the 1990 PCRR report be reviewed in relation to the current state of the university.
In 1991 a Multicultural Center Committee (comprised of faculty and staff) produced a report in response to issues similar to those raised in 1989. The committee recommended not a Multicultural Center, but instead a Multicultural Coordinator: a point person who would provide recommendations and guidelines, and who would work with an advisory committee comprising one additional staff member, two members of the faculty, and five students. Our understanding is that this recommendation was not implemented.
The 1998 Report followed on the tail of the Initiative on Racial Legacy and Learning for the AACU (American Association of Colleges and Universities); it placed emphasis on community partnerships (Wesleyan and Middletown relations). The report points to a persistent and often deleterious divide between the campus and the Middletown community.
From these reports and their recommendations, we surmise that while some progress has been made on past demands to address concerns of inequality, Wesleyan has yet to make sustained and measurable gains in this regard. More specifically, this institution has not committed to responding fully and sufficiently to the documented unequal experiences of the historically marginalized and underrepresented. This is most evident in the recurrence of these same issues among students, faculty, and staff of color, in relation to recruitment, retention, and lived experiences on campus throughout the years. The failure of these institutional efforts to ameliorate the stated problems is revelatory in their assertions of continuities that actually become obstacles to further development.
Much has changed since the 1990s. In many ways, Wesleyan is an entirely different, and better, university. Yet our successes have been limited. Periods of progress have been counterpointed by phases of retrenchment, and changes have been realized unevenly across the various parts of the campus. While some of our institutional habits and practices have been adapted to our times, others remain anchored in pedagogies that impede our collective ability to thrive.
One outcome of this limitation to recognize our institutional tendency to improve in some areas while neglecting others is a campus that is highly skeptical of the work being done by the present Task Force. Cynicism pervades, among new arrivals to campus as well as those who have witnessed and participated in cycles of change over the years. Generally, there is little or no confidence in the administration’s commitment to the quality of life of Wesleyan’s entire community.
Yet today there is renewed institutional willingness to address and rectify this. Prior to the wave of protests that captured the nation and beyond, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees had worked over a two-year period to develop a set of principles concerning the University’s commitment to Equity and Inclusion. On June 1, 2015, President Roth presented this statement to the entire community on his blog. It read:
The Wesleyan University Board of Trustees is committed to a campus culture characterized by diversity, equity, and inclusion. We believe that in order to meet the University’s educational mission and provide a thriving educational environment, the University’s governance, curriculum, and operations should be regularly reviewed and renewed to ensure that they reflect and address the broad diversity of the Wesleyan community.
The members of the board commit to conversations regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, and to monitoring progress in promoting equity and inclusion in all aspects of University life, including: eliminating the comparative disadvantages in educational experience that may separate student groups on the basis of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and/or other factors; and encourage honest conversations, openness, and metrics regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and evidence reflecting student success, faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and institutional performance.
The Board’s statement provides the directions for this Task Force to address impediments to the realization of the University’s educational mission, and it commits the institution’s resources to the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff. This statement also directs us to use a combination of qualitative and quantitative bases for reforms; this will require a transformation in our institutional culture (to cultivate “honest conversations”) and a consideration of our institutional research capacity (to provide “metrics regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and evidence reflecting students’ success, and faculty and staff recruitment and retention”).
The current Task Force was created by the President in December 2015, and began to work in late January 2016. Our charge was to respond to #IsThisWhy’s specific demand for a Center and also consider ways to address the impoverishment of both the learning and living experience of historically marginalized groups on campus. We have prepared recommendations for a set of institutional changes—physical, procedural, and practical—that will enhance and strengthen Wesleyan’s educational practice and, in so doing, realize the Board of Trustees’ goals.
We submitted an interim report based primarily on archival research in February 2016, and then began our discovery phase and the conduct of field research. We have held dialogues with members of the campus community, including some alumni, both to maintain openness to its many points of view and to provide evidence of action. We began to investigate and evaluate the feasibility and operations of innovative multicultural and intercultural centers at peer institutions, and we considered the practical and operational aspects of establishing one on campus.
Our final recommendations provide a basic plan for the development of this type of collaborative Center. We also emphasize that to address persistent problems of inequality and structural racism that are endemic both in our society at large and at Wesleyan, the Center must be only one part of a university-wide transformative initiative. We outline our vision below.
Responding to Current Needs
Our recommendations are meant to rally the entire Wesleyan community to recognize and confront our impediments and take concrete steps toward improvement. Our actions must be deliberate rather than merely reactive. Simply put, the University needs to commit fiscally to a new initiative.
More specifically, to make progress beyond our predecessors, especially in previously ignored areas, our institutional will requires a bold and ongoing effort. The rectification of inequalities across campus should be a discrete area of fundraising during regular capital campaigns. In addition, the University should commit to raising funds for the Center and related initiative work, so that the initiative may operate as an addition to the University budget, rather than a drain on already allocated financial resources. Wherever possible, the University should avoid pitting this new and necessary initiative against other entities on campus in zero-sum fashion.
In direct response to our charge, it is recommended that the University respond positively to the demand for, and establish, a new Center that has a clear, intellectually grounded mission in social justice and a focus on intercultural development and literacy, which integrates students, faculty, and staff in its core operations at the developmental stage to sustainably work towards a deeper commitment to inclusion campus-wide.
Note: We strongly recommend that planning for the new Center rely heavily on the existing thorough proposal for a Gender Resource Center. We include this proposal as Appendix A to this report.
Timeline: The #IsThisWhy students demanded a fully operational Center by Fall 2018. In order to keep to this timeline, we recommend that a new committee comprised of students, staff and faculty from across the divisions who are dedicated to the Center’s core mission be established that will work specifically to plan the Center during the academic year 2016-17.
Space: The Center must be ADA compliant (and hopefully LEED certified) and located on central campus, spatially able to accommodate groups on campus that should include a Student of Color (SOC) Resource Center, First Generation Student Resource Center, Queer Resource Center, and Gender Resource Center.
Administrative structure: The Center should be co-directed by a tenured faculty member and a full-time member of University staff with expertise in, or commitment to, social justice. Given their proposed integration, our view is that the two directorships might ideally be jointly housed within the offices of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.
Organization: We recommend that the Center’s governance structure consist of an advisory board of faculty, staff, and student leaders dedicated to its mission.
Vision: The Center should provide a convivial space for the integration of curricular and co-curricular activities, led by students, faculty, and staff. It should provide support and programming that will enhance the quality of life of historically marginalized groups on campus. In addition (and in response to concerns raised as far back as the 1998 Initiative on Racial Legacy and Learning for the AACU), the Center should foster community building both within and beyond the Wesleyan campus.
Student life resources: The Center will be a resource and hub for supporting relevant student organizations in their co-curricular planning and implementation of campus-wide programs. In an effort to create a year-long theme and continuity the office will specifically support Affinity Months and Awareness weeks for the campus community.
Intellectual engagement: The Center should host lectures, discussions, and various kinds of co-curricular programming. Given the Center’s commitment to an ongoing and holistic improvement in campus intellectual life, it should also provide faculty fellowships and residencies, similar to existing programs at, for example, the Center for the Humanities and the College of the Environment. Faculty with research and teaching interests connected with the Center’s core mission should work with the Center’s leadership to coordinate courses and co-curricular planning, and perhaps consider opportunities for scholarly initiatives (collaboration with students on research projects, but also support for reading groups and the like). We hope that Center programing will attract members of the larger Middletown community, in addition to members of the University.
Coordination of resources: The Center should be both a host and a hub for resources; some will be housed or managed elsewhere, and the Center will support, benefit from, and help students navigate curricular and co-curricular programs. Institutions of higher learning are historically and notoriously “siloed,” leaving students, faculty, and staff (especially across institutional divides), unaware of the myriad resources available and the ways they intersect.
Potential Problems: Most importantly, we emphasize that the transformation in the campus culture that Wesleyan needs so badly will not result from this Center alone. Center planners must be mindful that bricks and mortar must not be valued over people: the physical space will not solve the institutional problems; this is all about people, interactions, and relationships. Furthermore, efforts must be made to sustain ongoing student use of the space through dynamic programming and thoughtful planning. Finally, it is crucial that the Center be both a space for historically marginalized groups and a welcoming space for the entire campus community, a site for the exploration of the inequalities that unevenly shape our relationships. In a word, we must avoid the isolation of this space.
In order to recognize and address the broader historical and structural conditions perpetuating cycles of student protests and demands along with continuous patterns of inequity and retention problems among faculty and staff on campus, we recommend the University commit much-needed resources towards redressing these concerns and embark on a long-term, comprehensive, campus-wide initiative with concrete action plans to be fully incorporated in Wesleyan’s current and future strategic visions.
We recommend a campus-wide initiative to rectify longstanding problems of inequality and retention of faculty and staff of color at the University. This initiative will require substantial commitment of University funds, as well as a sustained commitment on the part of the administration, the faculty, the staff, and the students. We envision an initiative comprising of several interrelated parts that are immediate and longer-term in scope.
Given the perceived problem of hiring and retaining faculty and staff of color across the University as a whole, we recommend a university-wide inventory and longitudinal study, including all academic units and all staff. We are mindful of the fact that some of this information exists but is currently unavailable, while other parts of this study will require substantial research by a University body. Aspects of this work include: histories of departments in terms of faculty composition, history of chairs, and perhaps relevant curricular details; histories of faculty committees, including the Chairs of the Faculty and the various ad hoc faculty committees; a current inventory of department and overall staff and faculty demographics across all offices; histories of staff offices; a current inventory of staff demographics as expressed in the annual Equity Compliance Plan; and greater use and communication of the annual Equity Compliance Plan (formerly EEO Plan) to recognize progress and identify areas where more work is needed to advance. The establishment of a historical base line in this way will make concrete measures of progress in coming years possible.
A bold and clearly articulated strategy for demographic diversification of the faculty is necessary and overdue. We recognize that diversification of the faculty has been uneven across disciplinary divisions and that each division faces disciplinary-specific challenges. Wesleyan’s existing collaborations on this front include the joint Liberal Arts Diversity Officer (LADO)/Research I University initiative (consortium of chief diversity officers at 24 liberal-arts institutions with a mission of diversifying faculty, staff, students, and curriculum). The University also should take a deeper look at further initiatives: for example, the Southern Regional Educational Board (SREB), which aims to create a faculty pipeline from strong southern Research I state universities, and the Consortium for Faculty Diversity (CFD), whose mission is to increase the diversity of students, curriculum, and faculty. In addition, Wesleyan should reevaluate its current academic communities of excellence (Freeman Asian Scholars Program, McNair Program, Mellon Mays University Fellowships, WesMaSS [Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholar Program], Posse Veteran Scholar Program, Upward Bound Math/Science Program) in order to work strategically with other liberal arts colleges in a long-range effort to increase the talent pool, particularly in key areas such as mathematics and the natural sciences.
With shifts in the composition of University personnel, the campus climate too will transform. The University should establish a means of periodically assessing the campus culture and climate. Our view is that the University standing committee (see Recommendation 3) may be the body responsible for establishing benchmarks for accountability on this front. We further believe that it is important that assessment and reporting on the campus climate be a means for campus-wide self-awareness, geared toward inspiring further engagement. Ongoing exercises in evaluating the campus culture should enable and empower the campus to see itself, not merely to provide metrics for administrative use.
Wesleyan should conduct an external assessment to eventually write and implement a campus-wide strategic plan (following the model established at the University of Michigan) specific to each academic division. Each division should submit a plan for identifying, recruiting, and retaining faculty, students, and staff who will enhance an environment of inclusion and diversity at Wesleyan. In addition, the University should expand programs to support underrepresented groups in mathematics and science. The University might also establish a steering committee to implement curriculum reform where it is needed: for example, encouraging first-year and sophomore seminars related to issues of power, privilege, inequality, and social justice; and supporting pedagogical initiatives in math and science. The University should also enhance its seed funding for critical scholarship and course development.
At a university, engagement means intellectual immersion. As we embark on the structural work of institutional change, the initiative should encourage and support student, faculty, and staff work in areas that merge correlated social and intellectual concerns. This will keep the issues visible and living across campus and in our extended communities. Examples of such work might include (but are not limited to): public history projects on the history of the University, public science projects, historical, anthropological, and artistic works on the relation between the University and Middletown, collaborative course clusters, and senior capstones in related areas. Concomitantly, this approach reinforces institutional awareness that our work and relations in the advancement of knowledge have myriad implications.
As is evident from past and future plans, Wesleyan can better channel its resources to address concerns that reflect our community’s interest in social transformation. One example of a program that promises much on this front is the 2016-17 First Year Matters (FYM) curriculum around The New Jim Crow, which ties into a series of classes and lectures, and sustained dialogues on mass incarceration.
In conjunction with the aforementioned, we recommend a transformation of the task force to work in tandem with members of the larger Wesleyan community to create effective mechanisms to coordinate, centralize, communicate, and support ongoing institutional change efforts. Ultimately, this task force should evolve into a standing institutional committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff.
We recommend the creation of a nine-person ad hoc University steering committee, comprised of three members each from the faculty, staff, and student bodies, to direct and oversee the work of the initiative. The three faculty members should represent the three academic divisions (Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics). Our view is that this committee should originate through faculty governance procedures, with the expectation that staff and student members will be brought onto the committee as voting representatives.
The present task force ought to be dissolved and reconstituted after its deadline of May 1, 2016. Eventually, various distributed and representative committees ought to be established, each constructed specifically to carry out the aforementioned recommendations. The Center will require its own planning committee (as described above, under Recommendation 1) that can see through the next steps to the launch.
In recent years, due to the increasing corporatization of universities across the nation, and the pressures of the economy, campus cultures have become more fragmented as students negotiate learning, professionalization, and community engagement. Wesleyan’s mission as a transformative liberal arts education begins with a “holistic review” of potential applicants who are, in many ways, already fragmenting under these pressures. Moreover, the well-being of students is increasingly affected. We need a sustainable and integrative educational approach that is mindful of the uneven impact of these pressures. The overcommitted student does not have time for thinking. In Spanish there is a saying, “Hay que darle tiempo al tiempo,” we must give time the time. Learning is a process and contemplation is an integral component. Our institutional pedagogy should recognize and inspire a more present, civic-minded, and active learner. It may also serve to counteract the academic, personal, and social dissonance in students’ lives.
Considering this as we forge ahead, it is imperative that we reassess our scholastic values. Indeed, after a period of capitulation to the market, the University must reaffirm and recenter itself on our source of pride, our intellectual mission. Although it is a sign of our times, opting for digitization and screen culture has only encouraged students (and not only students) to view faculty as “resources,” reducible to delivery mechanisms; the result is no longer contemplative learning, but the passive quantifiable consumption of information without attentiveness to pedagogy. This growing trend, doomed to become our Achilles’ heel, grossly undermines faculty-student relations and the creativeness and possibilities in the exchange of knowledge. An educational mission is not the provision of consumer-centered services. The consumer model that has allowed the institution to compete is leading us astray from our very educational standards. Students are not partners in transactions, and faculty and staff also require work environments with boundaries, protection, and inspiration. We must work diligently together to reconcile the disjuncture between our branding and reality as we recommit to an integrative and non-instrumental style of learning, based on the twin strengths of Wesleyan’s scholar-teachers and its dynamic staff.
Moreover, it should not be taken for granted that Wesleyan’s known history of activism (especially during the 1960s-90s) continues to determine the campus climate or that it gives students the same sense of belonging as their non-activist peers. Although students have demonstrated over the years and waged campaigns such as Diver$ity Univer$ity, AFAMIsWhy, Trans/Gender Group, and WesDive$t more recently, in the last decades, evident commitment to social justice on a global scale has been waning on this campus, just as it has nationally. While recent events indicate a resurgence of some awareness, we must admit and confront the shifting generational tendency towards insularity and the interpersonal, which threatens to diminish cognizance and interest in international matters.
Global strife resonates at all levels, and as such is not unrelated to political struggles at home. And with the pervasiveness and persistent power of structural racism, Wesleyan needs the institutional will and commitment from members of its community to ongoing reflection and engagement. Therefore, effective and sustainable solutions will not arrive from above. Students, staff, and faculty together must create a campus environment of mutual respect. That environment depends on shared and deliberately articulated community principles. In this regard, on the one hand, the Office of Equity and Inclusion needs to better define, articulate, and communicate the institutional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. That office should also provide a clear policy framework. On the other hand, that environment will be shaped most powerfully by our collective community practices.
As we reel in the wake of the 2015, we must ask ourselves what we want our relationship to this historical moment of crisis to be. Our view is that we must seize this time as an opportunity to intentionally shape Wesleyan’s future narrative. Reflecting on the Trustees’ decision in 1832 alongside the 2015 Trustees’ statement, we should consider which aspects of our history continue to serve our progress, and which condemn us to repeat the past.
Task Force Tri-Chairs:
Antonio Farias, Staff
Shardonay Pagett, Student
Gina Athena Ulysse, Faculty
Task Force Members:
Elisa Cardona, Staff
Matthew Garrett, Faculty
William Johnston, Faculty
Makaela Kingsley, Staff
Caroline Liu, Student
Henry Martellier Jr., Student