Bottomly Voices Admiration for Wellesley Students' Outspokenness

February 20, 2014

The Wall Street Journal published a letter to the editor from Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly that challenges an op-ed the Journal ran about the response to the Sleepwalker sculpture installation at Wellesley.

President Bottomly writes, “Lenore Skenazy’s Feb. 12 opinion piece, ‘Fear and Loathing at Wellesley,’ raises fair questions about art and censorship—but its caricature of those students who have spoken out about the Sleepwalker sculpture as somehow betraying feminist ideals is ludicrous. As one of those feminists who, as Skenazy referenced, ‘fought a revolution,’ I welcome the environment these days when women can speak out freely and bravely about what disturbs them—this is what I fought for.”

In her letter Bottomly calls attention to how the reactions of Skenazy and other critics reflect a history of silencing women, and she emphasizes Wellesley's support of women’s rights to express their opinions. She writes, “At Wellesley, we stand strong for academic freedom, and also for our tradition of activism steeped in the liberal arts. Many shades of opinion have been expressed on campus in the past week, and a wide range of views has been debated. I am proud to be part of a community where women feel free to argue for what they believe in—and one that has a long history of just that. And I am proud of our strong, bright women—whichever side of this issue they espouse.” She added: “None of them have any need to man up, and I hope and trust, for women's sake, that none of them will ever shut up.”

The letter is published online and appeared in print on February 19. The Wall Street Journal also ran a letter on the Sleepwalker from Wellesley alum Suzanne (Lund) Miller ’89.

In her blog, Bottomly expressed her gratitude for “the many voices and perspectives that have productively contributed to conversations about art, freedom, censorship, and feminism, to name a few.”

Updates on the Sleepwalker

In an announcement to the College community on Thursday, President Bottomly said that after weighing many perspectives and considerations, she had reached the conclusion that “we cannot destroy the artistic integrity of this exhibition by moving the sculpture, and also, we must do everything we can to support those students who find themselves deeply affected by it.”

The Sleepwalker will remain where it is on campus throughout the scheduled run of the temporary exhibition, Tony Matelli: New Gravity. Bottomly wrote that the decision was informed by the working group of students, faculty, and staff that she convened, and by other individual meetings, and conversations with students, faculty, and staff.