By Brittany Wilson; former Co-Editor in Chief of The Whetstone, class of 2017
I have a stack of papers to grade and three term papers to write, but I can’t concentrate.
I’m here attending graduate school in Columbia, Missouri, but my mind has wandered 1,018.7 miles away again, and I can’t seem to drag it away from State Street. Without it, my body feels empty, heavy. The only thing left here is rage.
I attended Wesley College from 2013-2017 and worked as an editor for The Whetstone from 2014 until I graduated. I was there for the presidential search. I was there when Bob Clark made his first appearance on Wesley’s campus. I was there when he took over and things started going downhill. I was there when, even just a short time into his first year as president, he was already attempting to silence the student voice. I wrote about it all. To say Bob Clark and I were never friends is an understatement. Now more than ever.
In the years since I graduated from Wesley, I have been horrified by the news of the College’s decline and Clark’s treatment of its faculty and students. The articles about Clark’s begging for millions from the state and the News Journal article that broke the news of the Del State takeover to everyone (students and faculty included) have painted a picture of Wesley in outsiders’ minds as a lost cause, even when we – students, faculty, and alumni – held out hope.
It didn’t used to be this way. We used to make news for our sports and our expanding health sciences.
“You went to Wesley?” wasn’t always asked with a raised eyebrow. You all can thank Clark for that, too.
The reputation that Clark has given Wesley is heartbreaking. But last week when I saw the campus-wide emails that students and faculty were sending – everyone coming together to share their voices, their experiences, their pain – I was so incredibly moved.
When I worked on The Whetstone, most people did not speak out against Clark because they were afraid. He didn’t hide the fact that he hated the student newspaper and our insistence that students and faculty should be encouraged to share their voices, and that they deserved to know the truth. If Clark had started listening to those voices sooner – instead of trying to shut us up and shut us down – Wesley might have had a fighting chance.
To the students and faculty who responded to that email thread: you made a choice to be brave. You chose to speak your minds, share your hurt, and make your experiences known. You chose to resist. You chose to go down fighting.
You refused to let Clark skate away without taking ownership of the pain, loss, and suffering he has caused. And you loved and supported each other in the very ways that administration has failed to.
You made me proud to be a Wesley grad again.
At his inauguration ceremony in March 2016, Clark told the audience, “We should be proud of the fact that we are the oldest and smallest private college in Delaware, but we should not constrain our potential or bound our pride in the past.”
Who could have guessed that only five years later, it would be Clark’s brazen arrogance and egotism – his own inability to admit he was unqualified for his position and step down to make room for a competent leader – that would choke out the very potential he was telling us not to constrain.
We didn’t need him to be proud of Wesley’s identity as an institution. Before he arrived, we were excited about the promise of its future. Even now, in Wesley’s final months, that email chain showed that students and faculty are still deeply committed to Wesley and each other. None of us is ready to give it up.
The only thing that has bound our Wesley pride in the past is the failure of the leader who buried it there.
It’s time to come out from your hiding place, Clark. It’s time you take responsibility for the damage you’ve done and the hundreds of people you’ve hurt.