Last spring, a group of students from Fossil Free Wellesley (FFW) came to speak to me about Wellesley’s investment of endowment funds in fossil fuel companies. While advocating passionately for Wellesley to withdraw such investments, they also told personal, compelling stories about how fossil fuels had affected their lives. And thus began a broader conversation about what Wellesley could do, and should do, to address climate change.
Over the fall and this spring, a group of trustees, faculty, and staff met with FFW to discuss the request and to determine the best course of action for Wellesley. Today, I announced the decision by our Board of Trustees not to divest, but also that Wellesley has committed to undertaking several specific actions that will have an impact on our environmental sustainability.
While the Board of Trustees ultimately did not approve the request from FFW, all of us who have been engaged in these conversations have agreed from the very start that climate change is one of the most consequential issues of our time, and that we are committed to doing our part to make a meaningful difference in the world.
Over the last two weeks, much has been written and debated—on campus and off, publicly and privately—about the installation of the Sleepwalker sculpture, which is part of Tony Matelli’s New Gravity exhibition at the Davis Museum. I have welcomed the depth of the dialogue and am grateful for the many voices and perspectives that have productively contributed to conversations about art, freedom, censorship, and feminism, to name a few.
The story played out on social media, and in the national media, where some strangers mischaracterized our college and our students. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal went so far as to refer to Wellesley students as delicate Victorian maidens. I set the record straight. My letter in response was printed in Wednesday’s paper.
Recently, several disciplinary scholarly associations, including the American Studies Association (ASA), have called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, arguing that those institutions are complicit in Israel’s violation of the human rights of Palestinians. I have heard from a number of Wellesley alumnae and others about the ASA’s decision, and about the response from many American colleges and universities who have rejected that stance.
More than 150 college presidents have issued statements rejecting the boycott. In addition, a few presidents have withdrawn or threatened to withdraw their American Studies Association memberships. Many political and pressure groups have started email campaigns for and against the boycott.
As I explained in 2007, when I signed a petition as one of 400 presidents opposing a similar boycott at that time, boycotts of academic institutions by other academic institutions are fundamentally at odds with academic freedom. I rejected the boycott of Israeli scholars in 2007; I reject the similar boycott today. On the first of the year, I placed a statement to that effect on my President’s Page on the Wellesley website and added Wellesley to the list of academic institutions rejecting the boycott.
I firmly believe that presidents of colleges and universities should not take political stances, given that we are the public representatives of diverse intellectual communities that contain members with a wide variety of political and ideological views.
I have taken a stand on this issue because the boycott attacks the core of the academy—it violates our fundamental principles. My response, therefore, is made on moral and ethical grounds, not on political grounds.
Throughout her long life, the late Kathryn Wasserman Davis ’28 served as an inspiration to all those whose lives she touched—whether it was through her work to bring about world peace, her insatiable appetite for learning, or her incredible philanthropic commitment to the many causes in which she believed.
My admiration for this quintessential Wellesley woman was reinforced today. I had the pleasure of hearing Wellesley’s own Craig Murphy, the M. Margaret Ball Professor of International Relations and Professor of Political Science, lecture on Kathryn’s work in the field of global governance, and how she correctly predicted, in her 1934 doctoral dissertation, The Soviets at Geneva, that the Soviet Union would join the League of Nations—a controversial and surprising prediction at the time. She was a pioneer in this seminal work, as she was in many ways—as a woman, as a scholar, and as an American in the field of international relations. In fact, she is most likely the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in this field.
The field of international relations benefitted greatly from Kathryn’s contributions nearly 80 years ago. And though we must ask ourselves how the field might have benefitted even more had Kathryn continued on as a scholar, we also know that the world is a better place because of her many subsequent experiences in and contributions to the world.
It was a pleasure to welcome to campus Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children. Last night Ms. Miles, the first woman to lead the global charity that serves over 125 million children in need in the U.S. and around the world, delivered the 2013 Wilson Lecture.
She stressed that early childhood education is the key to opening up important opportunities for children—opportunities that have the potential to lift children out of poverty and free them to make important contributions to the world that benefit us all. Investing in children, Ms. Miles said, is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do—investing in children can change the world.
This year’s Wilson Lecture was a wonderful and fitting way to honor and celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wellesley’s Child Study Center. I am proud to have on our campus one of the oldest laboratory schools in this country, a place where young children can learn and develop, and where Wellesley students and faculty can engage in meaningful and important research.
The Wilson Lecture is a central part of our intellectual community—indeed, it is one of the highlights of the academic year at Wellesley. I am delighted that Carolyn Miles could lead us in conversation about this most worthy topic.
The glorious fall weather was picture-perfect this past weekend, as I welcomed to campus Wellesley parents, grandparents, siblings, alumnae, and friends for Family and Friends Weekend and Homecoming.
One of the highlights of the weekend, as always, was celebrating one of Wellesley’s oldest traditions: sophomore tree planting. On Saturday, more than 150 students and their families gathered on the Academic Quad to dedicate the Quercus Rubra, or Red Oak, that the Class of 2016 had chosen as their tree.
At the Wellesley Debates this past weekend, Paulina Perlin ’16, Prerana Nanda ’14, Simone Thibodeau ’14, and Mariya Getsova ’15 debated the topic “The structure of the higher education system in the United States is not consistent with democratic values,” while Sophia Mo ’14 moderated. As always, the students did an excellent job of presenting arguments for or against the motion. The before- and after-balloting indicated that those debating against the motion swayed the audience with their arguments.
For me, the weekend is also a wonderful show of our school pride during our many athletic contests. I was happy to cheer on the Blue as they took on Cedar Crest in soccer, winning 9-0. Congratulations also to the residents of Pomeroy, who had the most Superfans at that game.
Family and Friends weekend was enhanced this year by Pam Melroy’s wonderful talk on Saturday night: From Wellesley to the International Space Station. A Wellesley alumna (class of 1983), and an astronaut who has logged over 900 hours in space, Pam Melroy was only the second woman to command a space shuttle. I am grateful to Pam, who also is a Wellesley Trustee, for returning to Wellesley to speak to students and their families about her experiences. She is always enlightening and engaging and, despite her profession, very much down to earth.
My thanks go to all of the students, families, faculty, staff, and alumnae who made the weekend such a success.
Today, Wellesley launched what we suspect will be a game-changer in the higher education market. My inTuition: Wellesley’s Quick College Cost Estimator is a simple online tool aimed at communicating to prospective students, in a clear and easily understood way, that Wellesley is affordable. Based on the feedback that we have received through beta testing (including input from some of our own economics alumnae), we suspect that other schools may want to adopt it for their own use. Already, it has gained some press in The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The idea for this estimator was developed by Phil Levine, who is the Katharine Coman and A. Barton Hepburn Professor of Economics and the chair of Wellesley’s Committee on Admission and Financial Aid. Phil and a team of key staff in Admission, Financial Aid, Library & Technology Services, and Public Affairs then designed the tool.
My inTuition will be aimed at prospective students and their families who are early in the college search process. Too often, well-qualified prospective students cross off Wellesley from their college list early on, because they assume it will be too expensive. But using My inTuition and providing easily-accessible information to a few questions, students and families can get a realistic estimate of what they can expect to pay for a Wellesley education—a number that may be surprisingly low for some families.
The tool is brilliantly simple, and it is one more way we are trying to make a Wellesley education accessible to all the bright young women who deserve to be here.
It was a pleasure to officially welcome to campus today our newest members of the Wellesley community, the Green Class of 2017, and their families.
As part of Orientation, I joined Provost Andy Shennan and Dean of Students Debra DeMeis in a panel discussion, moderated by College Government President Joy Das ’14, about the liberal arts, about what students can expect in and out of the classroom, and about the Wellesley community—both the community on campus and the community of Wellesley women around the world. Our hope is that today’s discussion, and all of the Orientation activities planned this week, will help students begin to feel connected, and rooted, to this campus. (This year’s Orientation theme is From Roots to Branches, inspired, in part, by the Class of 2017 class color.)
While we all had some thoughts and reflections for the first year students and their parents, perhaps the best advice came from Joy Das, who said to the students, “It doesn’t matter what your age is, who you look like, where you come from, or what your high school experience is… Everyone at this college—faculty, students, staff, and administration—believes you can succeed here. So just work hard, and remember that your acceptance to Wellesley College is a sign of the faith.”
Today’s Orientation, and the activities for the rest of the week, were planned by the Office of the First Year Dean, many in the Student Life Division, and Student Orientation Coordinators Patrice Caldwell ’14 and Melissa Zambrana ’14.
Welcome again, Class of 2017! We are lucky to have you here.
What a fabulous day for the members of the green Class of 2013 and their families! I am proud of our newest class of alumnae and all they have accomplished so far, and know that they will continue to make Wellesley proud in the years ahead.
The Class of 2013 will never forget this day. I know I won’t. (And not just because we all melted under our academic regalia, thanks to the 90-degree weather!) The day will long remain in our memories because it represents Wellesley at its best—coming together as a community to celebrate our students for their achievements and recognize our faculty whose work over the last four years has contributed to the education of this class.
It was also wonderful to have Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, join us today as our Commencement speaker. Though she isn’t a Wellesley woman, she embraced the College as her own, with her most salient remarks. “Our country needs you,” she said. “In fact, the world needs all you have to offer. Our challenges are great, but so too are the opportunities for the positive change that you will create, if you remember not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”
Congratulations, Class of 2013! Enjoy this moment and come back to visit often.