I'm Vivia Fowler and I am the incoming President of Wesleyan College. I assume this role July 1 and want to take a moment to acknowledge Wesleyan’s troubling racial history. For too long, Wesleyan has ignored this disturbing part of our institution’s past and it’s time we admit and accept our failures.
On behalf of Wesleyan College, I want to sincerely apologize for any pain that our past has previously caused or continues to cause today. Moving forward, we need to do better, and we will do better.
We are exploring ways to engage our current students, alumnae, faculty, and other Wesleyan supporters to fully identify past issues and develop meaningful steps forward to help heal these wounds and ensure this never happens again.
Wesleyan's story from last century does not represent who we are now. More importantly, it does not reflect our current commitment to inclusion, equality, and social justice for every member of the Wesleyan community. I am proud to be a part of Wesleyan and, working together, we will be even stronger than before.
Wesleyan College’s history includes parts that are deeply troubling, and we are not proud of them. When Wesleyan was founded in 1836, the economy of the South was based on the sin of slavery. We are sorry for the pain that parts of our past have caused and continue to cause. We also celebrate how far our College has come and how we are striving to become the inclusive community we are called to be. Wesleyan can be a community where all kinds of people 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.
At Wesleyan College, we’re proud of many aspects of our past—of being the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women; of the transformative education thousands of Wesleyan students have earned; of the ways, big and small, in which our faculty, staff, and students have made the world better.
Like almost any longstanding American, and especially southern, institution, our history includes parts that are deeply troubling, and we are not proud of them. When Wesleyan was founded in 1836, the economy of the South was based on the sin of slavery. Wesleyan’s people were products of a society steeped in racism, classism, and sexism. They did appalling things—like students treating some African Americans who worked on campus like mascots, or deciding to name one of their classes after the hate-espousing Ku Klux Klan, or developing rituals for initiating new students that today remind us of the Klan’s terrorism.
Past Wesleyan students have left us with words and images that shock us today. They also remind us that our history did not stop with those words and images. Later Wesleyan students changed that class name and ended those initiation rituals. And while we at Wesleyan College, like many throughout the world, continue to struggle with both the legacy and presence of intolerance and hatred, we rejoice that our students today continue to challenge us and lead us forward.
“Wesleyan values each member of its community…. Our diversity is among our greatest strengths. We care for each other as an inclusive community and work together in service to the larger community that surrounds us.” That’s, in part, how we changed our College’s mission statement last year to state unequivocally who we are now. We are sorry for the pain that parts of our past have caused and continue to cause. We also celebrate how far our College has come and how we are striving to become the inclusive community we are called to be.
We’re working hard to make the words of our mission statement a lived reality on our campus. The diversity of our student body is unquestionably remarkable. About a quarter of our undergraduate students are international, representing twenty countries, and about a third are American women of color. We’re proud that our College, founded in the antebellum South, has so fully come to represent the diversity of our region, our country, and the world. We recognize that building an academic community where women of different faiths, different colors, and different sexualities learn from and grow with one another must become the heart of our identity. Appreciating difference and cultivating inclusion isn’t just a wish at Wesleyan, it’s a necessity.
As we move into our future, we at Wesleyan try to value what’s good about our past and learn from what’s not. That requires us to know more about our past and to be accurate in our telling of it. That’s why in 2016 we commissioned a history that should be complete soon – helping us openly confront our past and figure out together what it means to our community today. Wesleyan can be a community where all kinds of people 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. If you’d like to be part of it, let us know. And stay tuned for updates throughout the year.
Wesleyan College is privileged to steward many arts and cultural events and share them with the community. Most are free and open to the public. Wesleyan art galleries are open M-F 1:30 – 5:00 PM and on Wesleyan Market Saturdays from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM.View More
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