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Address to Campus Community

Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J.
May 7, 2019

Good morning. As our academic year draws to a close, I thought it important that we take some time to reflect on this year, its blessings and challenges, and its achievements and tensions, in order to summarize where we are at the moment, what we have accomplished this year, what we have yet to do, and where we are headed over the summer and into the fall.

Clearly, this moment in our history as a global community, a country and a campus is filled with serious challenges, conflict over how we should address them, and growing anxiety. And equally clear, these challenges and anxieties have the potential to divide us even further, or to unite us around shared values and the important work we have to do together. The concerns and issues we are facing here on our campus, are in various forms, touching all campuses in our country. Recently talking with administrators at Boston University, Harvard, Georgetown, Smith, St. Joseph’s and Boston College among others, as well as our colleagues here in Worcester, it is clear that for each of our campuses, realities may be expressed differently, but the concerns we face are significantly similar. And since on our campuses so many of us live and work very closely together, we have a shared commitment to explore ideals and confront disparities as we seek inclusion, respect and safety for all, while at the same time confronting the inequities and injustice which impede them. It is to be expected that the ideas we explore, the solutions we propose, and the policies and processes we develop, inevitably will involve discussion, debate and difference. Frankly, these dynamics are essential to all aspects of the academic process, but for this enterprise to be successful, it also takes openness, passion, mutual respect, an ability to listen carefully and speak thoughtfully, as well as a desire for truth and a willingness to live into the truth together. This work isn’t easy, it doesn’t progress in a straight line, inevitably at times it will be conflictual, and sadly, whether intentional or not, we will offend and hurt each other. The challenge, then, is how to move forward together while acknowledging our different responsibilities, limitations, and perspectives as we seek mutual understanding and growth. I hope that as we move forward, we can presume the goodwill of each other and our shared purpose, and attempt to put the best possible interpretation on what we say and do, even as we might disagree about means to achieve the common ends we share.

A year as challenging as this does have its benefits. It shows us where we can grow and where we need to improve.

From last fall’s ENGAGE Summit, to the recently completed Campus Climate Survey, to the work of our planning groups on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Sexual Respect and Conduct, our community has been clear about one thing: we have work to do.

We need to do a better job making our LGBTQIA community members feel supported, embraced, and cared for. We need to do a better job creating an environment where the victims of sexual misconduct feel they can come forward to seek support. We need to align our policies and procedures with the expectations of our community to make Holy Cross the place we all want it to be. And we need to add resources to accomplish these goals.

As a result of input from our community, and the work of our planning groups, we’ve made significant progress in working towards those goals and we acknowledge that there is a great deal of work yet to be done.

To chronicle what we are doing, we have launched a Campus Climate website which includes work that has been done over the past year toward improving the quality of life on campus. Many of the initiatives that I will describe in my address this morning  are found there. And in response to the requests of students and many others, we have a readable Q&A section which outlines how Title IX processes and procedures work and how our approach reflects current laws. We will continue to update the website and add to the Q&A as questions are raised.

First of all, regarding the concern for greater physical safety on our campus, additional lighting has now been added in various areas across campus and more will be added this summer. Additional security cameras will be installed in common areas across campus this summer, including 34 new cameras in the Luth Athletic Center, 67 on the exteriors of buildings, the parking garage and the athletic fields, and 118 cameras added to academic and administrative buildings and the Hogan Campus Center. The cameras in the Organ Loft will be relocated there as a result of feedback from the Organ Scholars.

Further, it is clear to me and the executive team that we need to revise some of our diversity, equity and inclusion personnel structures to ensure their vital work can happen effectively and efficiently. With this in mind, I am pleased to announce that Dean Amit Taneja will be moving to a newly created role of Associate Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. In this elevated role, Amit will provide cross-divisional leadership and strategic planning efforts by working closely with colleagues in departments across the College. We are developing a new structure in order to ensure that across our different divisions, such as Faculty, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Human Resources, Athletics and Alumni Relations, we will share common values, goals and procedures. Amit will work with these divisions to coordinate our efforts.

The planning groups on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Sexual Respect and Conduct, have wrapped up their initial work and made recommendations that everyone can read on our Campus Climate website. I am very grateful for all they were able to accomplish in a short time period. They presented their work in public meetings last week, and provided an opportunity for the community to submit feedback online.

We’ve also recently completed a Campus Climate Survey, an important step to understanding how our faculty, staff and students experience this community on a daily basis, to identify where there may be areas of concern, and to work together to address them. Your feedback is important to me. The Office of Assessment and Research will provide me with a summary of all the comments submitted in the campus climate surveys and I will be reading these and all the feedback provided regarding the planning group reports.

Both planning groups have suggested Montserrat as a place to begin the education we need to do, including a deeper dive into Sexual Respect and Diversity and Inclusion. The incoming director of Montserrat, Alison Bryant Ludden, and Associate Dean for Student Engagement, Michelle Bata, have begun planning a pilot program for this fall that will engage every first-year student. It seems to me that we also need to consider how and where this formation continues beyond the first year.

Earlier in the semester, we asked a team of highly regarded diversity and inclusion professionals to conduct a thorough review of the Office of Multicultural Education (OME). Among their recommendations is programming that addresses students’ intersectional identities and a structure that fully incorporates explicit support for our LGBTQIA students. The Vice President of Student Affairs, Michele Murray, is restructuring OME to accomplish these and other goals.

A similar process is being planned for the Office of Title IX Initiatives. Dottie Hauver, Vice President for Administration and Finance, is launching an external review of the structure of the Office of Title IX Initiatives. Based on that external review and the recommendations of the Sexual Respect and Conduct Planning Group, we will begin a search for the new positions that we need.

As you know from my email last Tuesday, based on the findings and recommendations of Phil Catanzano’s review of culture, structure and processes, we are committed to investing more resources into the College’s efforts on both education and training and on adjudicating complaints of sexual misconduct. We have already set aside additional funding for both staffing and new training initiatives for the coming year, while recognizing that we also will look at the way the Title IX Office is structured to ensure that both the College’s investigative and educational responsibilities can be carried out effectively. And we need to find more effective ways of accompanying those reporting and responding to reports. I have asked Phil Catanzano to complete his review by May 31, and I continue to encourage students to speak with Mr. Catanzano. Vice President Michele Murray is happy to arrange a meeting with him for you. I will be sharing a final update in June.

Other aspects of our Sexual Misconduct Policy are under review by a committee composed of faculty, staff and students with outside legal counsel. This is where we are looking at our policies and procedures to ensure that we are addressing the issues which have surfaced this year which I mentioned in my last email. For example: should there be mandated sanctions for certain violations, how are interim measures determined, who should determine and review sanctions, who should monitor sanctions, how does the College define retaliation, can we more effectively use the informal resolution process, are there ways to make the policy language more accessible, and can we examine the timelines for full investigations, determinations and appeals and see if there are ways to tighten up the process which are compatible with meeting the College’s obligations under applicable laws and regulations?

And what has become clear is a need to continually seek out community feedback on this policy, to ensure it is working as well as possible, and that it meets the needs of our community. I am proposing that once this work is done, a committee be appointed annually to examine the policy, and to recommend any necessary changes.

As many of you know, the director of the Office of Title IX Initiatives, Tracy Kennedy, will be leaving us at the end of the semester. During her tenure, the office has made important strides toward improving training and educational offerings regarding sexual respect and conduct. Tracy’s father died suddenly last week and she could not be here today, but she led the office with thoughtfulness and integrity, and I want to thank her for her efforts.

There is still much to be done. Throughout the year, we have had difficult conversations about aspects of our sexual misconduct policy that are difficult to understand for many in our community. One of the most challenging issues is the desire for disclosure of information related to investigations.

I know that our students, faculty, and staff want to be informed when there is an issue. We all want to be safe and we want to know what is being done to insure our safety. We also know that releasing information in an investigation can have multiple negative consequences, including harming those who have come forward with complaints.

Just imagine you are in the difficult position of deciding whether to report a case of sexual misconduct. I know some of you in this room will not need to imagine, as this issue affects far too many in our community, and our society. If you were faced with the decision to make a report, imagine if you not only had to wrestle with the potential ramifications of that report, and the difficulty of an investigation, but also the worry that the College would disclose private information about that painful situation to a wider audience. Imagine reading about that painful incident in the media or hearing people debating it in your residence hall or the dining hall. Or even worse, imagine your friends or colleagues recognizing your experience in those details, and realizing the person in that story is you. It would certainly make coming forward more difficult, and more painful, and I have no doubt would reduce the number of incidents reported.

This is one of the major challenges we face. As president of the College, I want to keep you all informed as much as I can. But I will not risk causing further hurt to members of our community to do so.

And while we have focused a great deal of attention this year on how we need to improve our support for all of those involved in reporting complaints of sexual misconduct and those involved in the adjudication process, we also acknowledge that what we really hope is that with better educational efforts and training for all members of our campus community, we can prevent a wide variety of harmful behaviors, especially sexual assault and harassment. We will be adding personnel to assist with our educational programming and the coordination of these efforts among different constituencies. Further, we need to have clearer behavioral norms for how students, faculty and staff interact with each other and clearer consequences when these norms are violated. Each of these constituencies needs to take responsibility for developing standards of behavior that they will adhere to and promote. Consequently, The Provost’s Office, Student Affairs, Athletics and the Chaplains' Office will work together this summer to develop policies and training establishing clear expectations for interactions between faculty, staff and students, on or off campus. These new guidelines will be presented in the fall.

Our fall semester ended with the ENGAGE Summit and during the spring semester the student sit in took place. Campus actions such as these generate a great deal of interest, commitment and energy. To be effective they need to be followed by a quieter but even more focused period of study, design and the implementation of needed changes and improvements. Designing plans, reviewing them with constituencies, revising them after input, and developing next steps such as funding, hiring and organizational change does take some time to implement. If done carefully, it will have a lasting impact. We have moved through the first phases of these next steps and are now identifying specific structures to change and people to hire.

Finally, as we have traversed these challenging issues, we have held an amazingly successful Women In Science Day and a most impressive Academic Conference. We have ended our year with incredible recitals and performances in music, dance and theatre and our students continue to win prestigious fellowships and internships. Our institutional rankings continue to move up and admissions is seeing great strength and diversity in our incoming class, while new faculty are being hired and current faculty are being tenured and promoted. The development of our campus facilities continues as our campaign moves forward steadily toward its $400 million goal, and our alumni continue to provide multiple resources to our students for networking, mentoring, and internships.

I recognize that even with all we have accomplished, this year has been an emotional strain for many in our community. It has been draining in part because we do care so much and we do want to do better. I have every confidence that the educational work that we do here, the community that we are forming, the service that we render to our city and wider world, and values which we witness, will all be stronger as a result of the challenges we are facing and the commitments we are making. We will have demanding days ahead and we will not have easy agreement on how to implement the changes we all desire, but I believe that we will move forward. We have weathered many challenges over our 175-year history and we will continue to grow as a consequence if we engage the struggle of growing together and listening carefully to each other. Our diverse perspectives and experiences and responsibilities are all important, and finding our way through them will test us all as we seek to create a community that can support all its members. This work will not stop over the summer, but I also hope that we can all take some time away to rest, reflect and discern how we are being called forward, and how we can work together.