Commission on Ethnicity, Race, and Equity

To:                   The Wellesley College Community
From:              H. Kim Bottomly
Subject:          Commission on Race, Ethnicity, and Equity
Date:               January 28, 2015

Recent months have made it very clear that racial injustice remains a devastating force in our lives. Racism inflicts multiple forms of violence on communities of color, resulting in persistent trauma and social isolation, and too often in senseless deaths. Though members of our community have supported each other during these recent difficult times, Wellesley is not immune. People of color and others from non-dominant groups who live, study, and work here have suffered from racial injustice. Racism and ethnic bigotry are fundamental threats to institutions like Wellesley that are founded on the principles of equal opportunity and equal treatment.

To remain true to our mission, we must be proactive in countering, and counteracting, these societal ills. We must also familiarize members of the campus community with these very real but often hidden issues. For these reasons, I am forming a Presidential Commission on Race, Ethnicity, and Equity at Wellesley.

This decision follows a series of meetings I convened with faculty this past December to discuss the continuing impact of racism on the educational experiences of our students and the lives of faculty both on and off campus. Those in attendance testified about their personal experiences and carefully analyzed the challenges faced by students and staff. The idea of this new Commission grew from these conversations.

The broad purpose of the Commission is to identify policies and practices in need of change, policies and practices that may reflect and reproduce broader patterns of racial disparities. This multi-constituency group will work to address racism and inequality at Wellesley, as well as to identify ways that Wellesley can better help to ameliorate, for members of our community, the effects of institutionalized racism in the larger society. The list of issues the Commission will tackle includes, but is not limited to, previously identified areas of disparity at Wellesley: students' health and wellness; faculty training about race, ethnicity, and difference; students' academic achievement; the treatment of issues of race and equity within the curriculum; and connections between on-campus and off-campus experiences of our students, staff, and faculty.

The Commission will draw on our existing resources, including student government and cultural groups, committees of Academic Council, Administrative Council, the Alumnae Association, and the offices of the Provost and Dean of the College and Dean of Students. It will consider and recommend new programs and structures that empower and support those at Wellesley who have traditionally been disadvantaged and marginalized.

I have asked Michael Jeffries, Associate Professor of American Studies, to chair this Commission, and he has agreed to do so. Members of the Commission will include faculty, students, alumnae, and staff. The Commission will do its work over a minimum of three years. I welcome the nomination of faculty, students, staff, and alumnae who you think are well suited to join the group, which will begin its work this semester. Suggestions about additions to the Commission’s agenda are also welcome.

The Commission is a long-term investment, equal to the task at hand. I look forward to the important work that lies ahead.