Convocation talk stresses diversity, inclusion, and human rights.

Convocation crowd 2014

Convocation is traditionally a time for celebrating new beginnings, and the MHC community packed Gettell Amphitheater on September 2 for this year’s event. Colorfully clad students cheered, new and returning students were welcomed to campus, and President Lynn Pasquerella ’80 officially launched the academic year.

The president’s address included news of summer accomplishments by faculty and students; accolades from media stories and college-ranking organizations; and updates on MHC’s involvement in human-rights issues around the globe.

Saying “human rights begin at home,” Pasquerella announced Mount Holyoke’s new admission policy on transgender students. “Our new policy formally welcomes applications from any qualified student who is female or who identifies as a woman,” she said.  The audience roared its approval and gave her a standing ovation. A respected ethicist, Pasquerella sees the new policy as the next step in Mount Holyoke’s historic commitment to human rights and social justice.

“Mount Holyoke and our Board of Trustees took the important step of establishing a policy on transgender students,” she said. “While we have welcomed trans students in the past and for several years have been in conversation with campus constituencies about how best to foster a respectful environment for all students--we needed a formal policy: one that would articulate our commitment to core values of individual freedom, social justice, and diversity and inclusion.”

“We recognize that what it means to be a woman is not static,” she continued. “Just as early feminists argued that reducing women to their biological functions was a foundation of women’s oppression, we acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body.”

Details about MHC’s policy are available online.

But Convocation wasn’t only about the president’s speech, as you can see online in the video of the entire event.

Convocation began with a lively procession of faculty in academic regalia and students clad in their class colors. Seniors, like a rising sun of golden sphinxes, tried to outshine—and out-cheer—the red sea of enthusiastic first-year students. Effusive welcomes by representatives of the faculty, staff, and Student Government Association greeted new and returning students.

After musical presentations from the MHC Convocation Choir directed by Lindsay S. Pope ’07, and from former The Voice contestant Michelle Brooks-Thompson ’06, President Pasquerella took the stage.

She recapped major College accomplishments and events from the past summer, then turned her attention to human rights issues near and far. “We believe that it is the responsibility of a great women’s college not only to educate women on our campus, but also to be vigorous and vigilant in advocating for women around the world,” said Pasquerella.

She ended Convocation with this charge to the College community: “Let us ring the bell, open the gates, unleash our minds and hearts, and begin the hard work ahead. We couldn’t be more ready.”

• View a photo gallery of Convocation.

—By Emily Harrison Weir