President Bottomly announced to the Wellesley community on Jan. 28 the creation of the Commission on Race, Ethnicity, and Equity. In the announcement, Bottomly asserted that racism is present on our campus and poses a significant threat to the integrity of Wellesley College. Bottomly’s statements acknowledge a long ignored problem of our institution that has affected many members of the community. Often, our campus prides itself on being politically correct; Bottomly’s creation of this new committee emphasizes that there is a difference between being a diverse school and one that accepts diversity unconditionally.
The announcement comes after two semesters of activism by the WAAM-SLAM II movement and campus protests in response to the racially charged murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and many others. The Wellesley News Editorial Staff applauds the much-needed formation of the Commission on Race, Ethnicity, and Equity and hopes that it will yield substantive changes. Among the actions proposed by President Bottomly’s announcement, we hope that the College will ensure the empowerment of student voices in the decision-making process and emphasize the discussion of issues of race and equity in the Wellesley curriculum.
Bottomly wrote that the Commission seeks to discontinue policies that promote racial disparity — a task that cannot be fulfilled without student input. Much of the racial inequality on campus is observed and felt by students themselves, and many of us have testimonies of unequal treatment. Students have strongly voiced their determination to combat the forces of social and racial discrimination on campus. In an email to the Wellesley community on December 2014, Ethos Leadership stressed their desire to incite change, “We, as students of Wellesley College, seek to reclaim our own voices,” Ethos Leadership wrote. “It is time for us to empower ourselves to become catalysts for change today, not tomorrow.”
Among the issues that the Commission seeks to tackle, Bottomly lists the incorporation of issues of race into our curriculum. As a community of students that places great value in politically relevant academics, we want to see discussions of race on our courese syllabi. We believe that being well-rounded students involves awareness of race discrimination, and that a liberal arts education must include dialogues of inequality. Ethos Leadership stated in their letter to the college community that silence is complicity. Including race and inequality in our curriculum is one of many ways to break this silence, a measure that would reach the student community as a whole.
The creation of both the President’s Advisory Committee on Gender and Wellesley and the Commission on Race, Ethnicity, and Equity addresses urgent issues at Wellesley. The Wellesley News is eager to see what actions evolve from the creation of these groups and hopes to observe much-needed change in our community.
Bottomly stated in her address to the community that the forces of racism are “often hidden issues.” Issues of race are, in effect, hidden to some — but vividly present to others. To make Wellesley a true safe space, where we all feel included, Wellesley needs to make addressing racism a priority for everyone on campus. While racism and intolerance continue to permeate our increasingly globalized world, it is our responsibility as the upcoming generation to challenge implicit prejudice that exists to this day. The first step, of course, is to recognize it.