We can do better. The issues that were courageously described in the article titled “Yellow Fever Coloring my Wharton Experience Red” are real, and unfortunately stretch far beyond one specific demographic group. The intention of this article is not to excuse a specific lapse in judgment, but rather to move the discussion forward. We hope that you choose to read the following thoughts with an open mind and a willingness to continue to improve the culture we have all worked to build over the last two years at Wharton.
In an environment that actively seeks diversity and expression, it is safe to say that there will always be conflicting opinions. We are a community that represents over 70 countries and a broad range of ethnicities and religions; we bring different perspectives to the table. Any attempt to establish a concrete code about what can and cannot be said would be Sisyphean challenge – impossible to agree upon, and outdated as soon as the ink dried. However, what is within our grasp is establishing a process to resolve the differences that naturally arise.
In our two years at Wharton, we have found our community to be a uniquely resilient one that has repeatedly evolved its norms and traditions as these types of issues have arisen. We have also found that the path to resolution has not always been the clearest one. Although we believe that directly addressing conflicts face to face is often the best solution, we understand it may be challenging for an individual or aggrieved party.
If alternative paths towards two-way conflict resolution had existed, we believe that the community would have been able to avoid the vicious cycle of increasing division, personal resentment, and a battered Wharton brand. The article titled “Yellow Fever Coloring my Wharton Experience Red” missed an opportunity for the press to profile how our community works together to evolve. We support the author’s courage in speaking up, but we believe that the execution left much to be desired.
The Wharton Journal, social media, and the broader news outlets that have picked up the story represent blunt tools that exist in a world of headlines, and not context. As students and future alumni, it is critical that we are aware of the benefits and challenges that manifest themselves in these mediums, and the impact they can have on the Wharton brand and our campus community. In the end, we are a family – the Wharton family. And we are in this together.
Wharton has a unique governing structure that can provide a better way for our community to grow, work through friction, and evolve. We propose that the WGA work to create a diversity council that would serve as a forum for students to float these kinds of misgivings. This council would consist of students selected by their peers and perhaps a representative from the Student Life Office. It would clearly communicate channels to submit misgivings, especially anonymous ones. By creating a structured, accessible process to facilitate these conversations, we can hopefully create a safe path to channel any potential conflicts.
It is important to underline that we do not intend to discourage discourse. Rather we believe that this may serve a better avenue since active discussions permit nuance, response, and understanding. The Wharton Journal and social media will always exist as important and powerful platforms to call for change when all other avenues have faltered. We hope that the proposed diversity council can be a better alternative to help shape our ongoing evolution, and serve as a testament to what Wharton can achieve.
With these words, we hope to shift the discussion towards a more virtuous cycle. We strongly disagree with how Wharton has been portrayed in the media following the publication of this article. We have known Wharton to be a place that attracts people from all corners of the world to share with one another what makes each of them unique; it is a place that showcases the best of talents, and where meaningful friendships are made.
Let us be builders of our brand, and focus on coming together as one family. Let us deliberate and talk amongst each other before taking actions that can hurt our own. Let us move this discussion forward and protect our community, because we have all worked extremely hard to get here, and because we love this brand that will follow us for the rest of our lives.