How Scripps’ Staff and Student Leaders Are
Advancing Equity on Their Own Terms
By Emily Glory Peters
In its beginnings, the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be something of an equalizer—a rare global phenomenon that created a universal shared experience for all of us.
Yet it didn’t take long for disparities to surface. Inequities in education, income, and access to health care put people of color at higher risk of viral disease and death. Women of color lost jobs at a record rate. And in 2020, the killings of unarmed Black Americans George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor prompted outraged responses from leaders across all sectors—declarations that racial inequity is real, destructive, and must be uprooted.
While assertions from Scripps’ leadership were no exception, they underscored another profound reality: Leadership and the advancement of racial equity are linked. For the College to deliver on its promise to graduate individuals who will be leaders in society, the critical consideration of what barriers certain populations face versus others—especially in higher education—was more pressing than ever.
Recognizing Scripps’ responsibility in this work was especially significant for Marissiko Wheaton, assistant dean and director of Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE), when she accepted the role last year.
“As a women’s college, Scripps has inherently served as a home for those who have been denied access to other spaces and institutions. In carrying that spirit today, it’s important we extend this access to all underrepresented, intersectional identities that come here to learn,” she says. And while history has shown that a wall pushed down is hard to raise again, she adds, it’s a leader’s role to ensure that the push persists.
“We should never be satisfied with anything that limits other deserving students’ Scripps experience, because to be proud of the College’s history is to be proud of the constant drive to increase equity and access,” says Wheaton.
The twin traumas of the pandemic and the nation’s “racial reckoning” set the scene for Wheaton’s arrival at Scripps in August 2020. Her principal duties were to help students build an inclusive community through student-led clubs and organizations (CLORGs) and to provide leadership development opportunities using a social justice framework. It’s a complex charge in the best of circumstances—let alone through a computer screen during Scripps’ temporary switch to remote learning—but she was up for the task.
Marginalized people shouldn’t feel solely responsible for speaking up.
I truly believe that nothing can be done without the voice of the students.