The events of the last two weeks from Ferguson to Staten Island have once again raised serious questions about whether the same justice exists for everyone in our country. My heart goes out to the families who are suffering. I know that these have been difficult days for members of our community as well, particularly our students, faculty, staff and alumnae of African descent, as they struggle to make sense of the decisions and to understand their implications for their friends, their family, and communities across the country.
Today our students have brought the national discussion to life on our campus. I support them in their protest.
In reflecting on the situation, I am grateful for our Wellesley tradition of reasoned discourse and commitment to justice. We must recognize that there is much work to be done across our country—and we must start in our own community.
We must confront any racial injustices that black students, faculty, and staff face on our campus, and we, as an institution, must demonstrate the value that all members of our community bring through our actions and response to these injustices.
These conversations are not easy. But let us not be deterred from the important work that lies ahead.
Wellesley is a remarkable institution. It always has been, and it always will be, thanks to the incredible dedication of the generations of people who care so deeply about it.
It is a pleasure to share my thoughts on what’s new at the College, what we’re focused on, and how Wellesley continues to be the exceptional place you know and love.
Today at lunch, I learned something that every student here likely already knows: You can eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you so choose. (And, that ice cream is delicious atop waffles.)
Thanks to the residents of Stone-Davis Hall for joining me for lunch today, and for the great conversation about a number of important topics—not just ice cream!
I hope to stop by for lunch at other dining halls this year, and look forward to seeing you there. I’ll tweet when and where the day before. Or, check out my Connect with Kim webpage to see where I’m headed next, and for other ways to connect with me in person.
As I wrote earlier this month, the broad question What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st Century? will serve as the theme for a number of important conversations this year.
This is an important moment for these conversations and I look forward to engaging students, faculty, staff, and alumnae in this broad theme and the many implications and subtopics that this theme provides—including, initially, the topic of gender fluidity and its implications for a women’s college.
As I wrote to our campus community today: Wellesley College was founded to educate women who will make a difference in the world. Wellesley’s founders recognized that the education of women would confer powerful benefits upon both society and individuals. They also recognized that women faced significant challenges—social, economic, cultural—in attaining an education.
Wellesley remains steadfast in its mission, investing its considerable resources to awaken the potential of individual women and to give them the tools they need to make a meaningful difference. Wellesley is likewise committed to maintaining a community of individuals who embrace the College’s mission of educating women.
That said, there is great diversity today in the ways individuals experience and express their gender identity. Gender fluidity has implications for women’s colleges in general and for Wellesley College in particular.
We recognize that the issues of gender identity and transgender experience are relevant and complex. We must build a better understanding of these issues and determine what current policies and practices might need revision in light of this understanding
To begin this conversation, I will be appointing an advisory committee. Composed of students, faculty, staff, and alumnae, the Committee will have the following charge:
- First: Inquiry. The Committee will determine and delineate the specific issues raised for a women’s college and our community at a time when gender fluidity is becoming increasingly acknowledged. To accomplish this goal, they will seek input from all members of the College community.
- Second: Education. Recognizing that different members of our community have varying levels of knowledge and understanding of this topic, the Committee will coordinate a year-long program of events and activities designed to bring all members of our community to a common baseline level of knowledge and understanding. The Committee will also facilitate opportunities for many voices to be heard, both on campus and among our alumnae.
- Third: Evaluation. Throughout the fall semester, the Committee will examine all relevant policies and practices on campus, will solicit input from key Wellesley constituencies and will determine whether and how they continue to serve the mission of the College in the context of new understandings about gender.
- Fourth: Findings. At the beginning of the spring semester, the committee will present its findings regarding policies or practices that are affected by the College’s evolving understanding of gender and their impact on Wellesley’s mission. These findings, and subsequent discussion of them by the College’s governance bodies/structures, will guide recommendations to be made to the Board of Trustees.
Advisory committee members will be selected in consultation with the appropriate governance structure (i.e., Agenda Committee for faculty, College Government for students, Administrative Council for staff, and the Alumnae Association). I want to thank those of you who have already reached out to me to express your interest in participating in these conversations in some way—I encourage others who are interested to do the same.
I likewise invite all members of the community to be engaged in this dialogue throughout the year, and I welcome your feedback on the charge to the advisory committee.
In my Convocation address this week, I stressed the continued importance of being a women’s college today, and the advantages to our students stemming from Wellesley’s historic investment in women. This investment has paid off in generations of inspiring and dynamic Wellesley graduates making a difference in the world. As I said, this is the Wellesley “magic.”
Being at a women’s college matters. Being at Wellesley matters.
As I wrote to our students, faculty, and staff today—to continue to invest intelligently, and to serve all of our students well, it is important that we ask the question: What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century? It clearly does not mean the same as being a woman in the 19th or even the 20th century – needs have changed, context has changed, expectations have changed, societal practices have changed, even the language has changed.
The broad question has several implications and will serve as the basis this year for a number of important discussions—and as the foundation for meaningful change in several arenas. We as a community will approach these discussions in Wellesley’s usual thoughtful and inclusive way, and in a way that is reflective of our longstanding values, and our mission.
To begin these discussions, the President’s Office will sponsor a range of community events this year (such as lectures, presentations, and panels), to explore what it means to be a women’s college at a time when the definition of gender is becoming more fluid. In addition, recognizing the importance of that fluidity, I will appoint a special advisory group this fall to consider and make specific recommendations to me and to the Board of Trustees on how Wellesley should best move forward on this issue, as an institution and as a community.
Certainly, there are many other implications to the question of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century—such as the one raised by Provost Shennan in his Convocation remarks concerning how to best support today’s liberal arts students in their transition to successful careers, especially in our changing world.
It is August, the last month of summer. In just a few weeks, we will be welcoming students and faculty back to campus, and greeting our newest class—the purple Class of 2018.
In anticipation of this, I am starting to prepare my remarks for Convocation, the ceremony that marks the start of our new academic year. And I need your help! My talk this year will concern the relevance of a women’s college today. I would love to hear from students and alumnae: What does Wellesley mean to you?
I invite you to include your thoughts in the comments section below, or via Twitter: @hkbottomly.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
I am so very grateful for the love that Wellesley alums have shown over the last year. More than half of you, in fact 53.4 percent of our alumnae, donated to Wellesley during the last fiscal year, making it the highest “participation rate” that the College has seen in 12 years.
That percentage is a wonderful statement both about our strong and committed alumnae network, and about the value of—and appreciation for—the exceptional education that Wellesley offers. On a practical note, the high percentage is important because it is a metric used to calculate college rankings; it also puts Wellesley in a good position to be able to receive grants from corporations and foundations.
I also want to give a special shout out to the Class of 2009 and the Class of 2013, for their incredible dedication to Wellesley. The Class of 2009 had an extraordinary 59 percent of alums contribute to Wellesley last year. (Wellesley hasn’t seen such a high participation rate for a 5th reunion year since the Class of 1956’s fifth reunion in 1961.) And 50 percent of the Class of 2013 contributed to Wellesley, which is a wonderful and impressive accomplishment for any class, but especially for one just one year out of college.
Wellesley is Wellesley because of the dedication of our alumnae, parents, and friends. Thank you for all that you do to support this special place.
Kudos to this year’s Hooprolling winner, Alex Poon ’14, who carried on the family tradition—32 years ago, Alex’s mother, Helen Poon ’82, was that year’s Hooprolling winner. In fact, Alex used a family hoop that has been used by every member of his family who has gone to Wellesley. All the names of the family members who have used the hoop are written on it, and star is placed next to their name if they win.
Congrats to Alex and to all the seniors who carried on this Wellesley tradition this morning.
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.