Continuing conversation on campus about the hate flyers put up on two floors on Meadows West on September 5 have so far led to campus meetings with students, faculty and staff, and some policy proposals.
President Hanno’s Council on Inclusion and Diversity, or CID, met on September 15 to discuss the incident, and presumably also to discuss the “program of activities” that he has spoken of introducing in response.
Dallas Flint, the area coordinator for Beard Hall and Meadows, hosted the community meeting that took place in Meadows shortly after the incident on September 5. It was Labor Day weekend, and she and the other area coordinators knew the issue would not be addressed to the broader campus community until at least the following Tuesday.
Most of the campus, including the Student Government Association, did not find out about the incident until Hanno sent out a campus-wide email on September 8.
At the meeting, she and Wheaton’s three other ACs told a room filled largely with new freshmen exactly what had been written on the signs.
“I think had this incident happened on upper campus, students might have responded differently,” she said. “But these were primarily first-year students, and it was just a lot of silence in the room, and shock.”
The ACs also made clear to the students that was written on the flyers constituted hate speech. They told them that the entire college would soon be notified about the incident.
A student at the meeting said, in Flint’s words, “We’re all talking about how we feel. I don’t want to talk about how we feel, what are we going to do about this?”
She told the student that the area coordinators wanted the response to be from the top down, meaning that the hate speech would be addressed by the president and Dean of Students Kate Kenny.
Flint and the other area coordinators were in contact with Kenny from the flyers’ discovery onwards, and they organized the Bias Response Team meeting on Tuesday morning. The incident was also addressed at the President’s Council meeting, also on Tuesday.
The President’s Council, chaired by Hanno, consists of Wheaton’s top administrators.
Both Hanno and Kenny have spoken publicly about the hate speech, through emails and short speeches they delivered at the town hall meeting, which was dubbed “OneWheaton.” No top administrator has introduced a comprehensive plan to tackle the issue on campus as of yet.
However, the three main organizations involved in tackling the issue have produced several long-term steps. Those organizations are the Bias Incident Response Team, CID and the Intercultural Board, a tier of SGA chaired by Kweku Ampem-Darko ‘17.
Ampem-Darko said that SGA is planning a photo campaign, tentatively titled “My Wheaton,” that will attempt to draw more attention to the issue by having students describe, hopefully honestly, their experiences with the college.
“It’s not about promoting a positive thing or a negative thing,” he said. “It’s about promoting what everyone’s individual experience of Wheaton is.”
Another potential response that has been discussed is a form of Safe Zone training for faculty and staff. Safe Zone training, which exists at many colleges, gives people an understanding of LGBTQ issues so that they can be of effective assistance to LGBTQ students in times of need.
Ampem-Darko suggested that the training would be broader in scope than only LGBTQ issues, and would teach faculty to deal with racial discrimination, among other issues, as well.
“In the meantime, I’m looking for help on how to respond to this issue too,” Flint said.
She is also keen to get the message across to first year students, who have little experience of Wheaton, that hate speech is not tolerated here.
Led by Director Christopher M. Santiago, Public Safety’s investigation into who was responsible for the flyers is still ongoing as of this writing.
Flint also addressed Residential Life’s controversial “words that hurt” campaign, saying that the discomfort it provoked helped to produce a dialogue on campus.
“Discomfort is important for growth and for change,” she said.
She has instructed her RAs to frame their programming in an attempt to address the issue of hate speech on campus.
“I try to look at it from a student perspective, and there are a lot of students who just pretend like it’s not happening,” Ampem-Darko said. “Just come and stand and show support. Something. You don’t have to, you know, wear a shirt and protest or whatever.”