In separate but similar emails sent on Friday of last week to students, staff and faculty, following days of pressure for communication, President Hanno wrote of “the challenges we face” noting how he has been “inundated with outreach… a good deal of it very negative” surrounding events including recent demonstrations in town, and the arrest and suspension of a queer student of color under suspicious circumstances. President Hanno lamented a “confrontational and divisive” zeitgeist, saying to staff and faculty “I hope you agree that it is not acceptable.”
His advice: “be planful and intentional about what we do know and what we can control.”
Let’s consider what that looks like:
We do know that some recent communications reveal division over the nature of our crisis and the role of leadership. On one side, is the conservative maintenance of the status quo and its beneficiaries, propped up by immovable “longstanding policies” and appeals for civility. On the other side, an aspirational leadership that’s responsive and transformational, finally prioritizing our most vulnerable in the march towards justice.
We know that by prefacing with tacit admonishments an important and overdue communication to a campus in crisis, President Hanno continued a trend from Wheaton administration of community engagement based on under-supported expectations at times when materially supported solidarity is needed.
We know that Wheaton should wrap around our most vulnerable, not exile them in deference to accusations from a demonstrably unjust system. We know justice is nourished by trust and safety.
We know these values do not preclude functional student conduct and campus safety policy.
We know that if leaders want unity, they’ll have to lead in ways that validate the real trauma in our community. They’ll have to do so with a prompt directness and transparency that models the urgency our community feels, and the respect it deserves. Their leadership will have to appeal for shared humanist values, including some that challenge the conventions of their own power and privilege.
Those are things we know. What can we control?
We can control our persistence towards accountability and open communication from the powerful. We can control our steady pressure for justice and reform, which requires challenging power and welcoming conversation and criticism. We can control our climb to high ground in a community where some mistake our humanity’s strivings for faults. And we can welcome others to that ground once they climb the mountain.
Colin McNamee ’04
Technical Director, Theatre and Dance