I want to inform you about two media events that will occur this week.
1. This morning, Dr. Karen Huber, professor of history, and Wesleyan Alumna Dana Amihere’10, were interviewed live on Georgia Public Broadcasting's (GPB's) "On Second Thought." Ms. Amihere spoke about her Wesleyan experiences and hopes for the future. Dr. Huber discussed her continuing research on Wesleyan's history. We will learn more about Dr. Huber's research this fall.
2. Journalist Brad Schrade is preparing a second story to be released this week in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has interviewed several alumnae about their experiences with Rat and LINKS. In response to his request for a statement from the college, we provided the following:
Statement from Wesleyan College:
Wesleyan recognizes that there have been portions of her past, both distant and all too recent, that have been painful and we are deeply sorry. We are working to learn about and understand our history and to make amends. During the process of uncovering and discussing our institution's past, we have learned of many things we still need to work on today. We are committed to inclusion, equality, and social justice for every member of the Wesleyan community. We are committed to listening to the concerns of all of our constituencies--students, alumnae, faculty, staff, and community members--and creating a supportive learning environment that welcomes everyone. We hope that all members of our community will help us move forward with our goal of creating a community where all are able to know, trust, learn from, and care for one another. Our story is one of hope, where the lessons of history make us stronger.
Over the last few weeks, college officials have initiated and responded to conversations about the college’s desire to tell the full story of our 181-year history, including parts of our past that have caused pain. In order to keep our constituents apprised of these conversations and reports, we have communicated regularly with students, faculty, and staff as well as the Board of Trustees and Alumnae Board of Managers. These conversations have revealed instances where initiation rites—far too long tolerated by the college—caused pain that lingers even today. Most of the conversation about these painful memories has taken place in social media where dozens of alumnae have shared their Wesleyan experiences, both positive and negative. This represents only a fraction of the 5000+ Wesleyan alumnae, and even those who report negative experiences with first-year initiation activities love the college and want to help it heal and grow.
Wesleyan students, faculty, staff, trustees, and alumnae have varying opinions and perspectives about the events of the past and conversations that are taking place today, but all agree that we waited far too long to acknowledge this history and make amends. We have been overwhelmed by messages of encouragement and appreciation for our efforts to acknowledge and apologize for our mistakes.
Like many other southern institutions that have embarked upon history projects that acknowledge institutional racism, we know that we must proceed carefully and deliberately. With so many faculty and students away during the summer months, and with many alumnae and trustees on vacation, we decided that we would suspend our gradual release of Dr. Huber’s history project until we could all come together in August and renew our efforts to tell the story truthfully and carefully, considering especially those who may be angered and hurt by reading the history. Almost unanimously, responses have been supportive about removing the history from the website until we’ve had time to do the proper research and report the findings. We will continue the research and will publish our findings when we are comfortable they are complete and accurate.
We also acknowledge that we cannot speak of this history as if it only applies to events that occurred over 100 years ago. We have learned of hurtful initiation activities that occurred even in until 2013, and we pledge to our students that we will not tolerate behavior that is hurtful or hateful. We have reorganized our student affairs staff, and we are examining all policies related to student behavior to ensure that we can act swiftly and decisively if such hurtful actions ever occur.
In some ways our community is stronger than ever before. Our conversations will help us move forward. We continue to welcome all suggestions and opinions about how we can improve. The conversations we have had this summer confirm our need to take action to heal our community.
As these stories unfold, we will keep you informed. Thank you for your continued support of Wesleyan College.