Campus Climate Next Steps

From: Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., President
December 7, 2018

Dear Members of the Campus Community,

We have many serious challenges facing our campus community today. Too many members of our community are in pain, do not feel a sense of belonging at Holy Cross, and are asking us to address these issues. We have heard reports of incidents of bias, hate, disrespect and assault. These behaviors are unacceptable. I am committed to working with students, faculty and staff to do the work and commit the resources needed to improve our community.

I believe it is critical to launch two specific initiatives at this time: the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan, and the creation of a Sexual Respect and Conduct Plan. Each plan will include short-term and long-term goals, recommendations for action, and measurable outcomes. Planning groups will be formed to create these plans, and I am asking both groups to submit reports and recommendations to the Executive Team by March 31, 2019. We will share these reports with the campus community and hold a community forum in April to gather feedback and discuss next steps.

Let me be clear, these action planning processes are not all that we will be doing on these issues – there are steps that we will take before these plans are complete and steps we have already taken. We will provide an update on these steps in January. I am establishing these planning processes at this time because the needs of the community require this foundational work.

My expectation for the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan is that it will address campus climate as a whole, and also address the unique issues, needs and circumstances of community members who have historically been on the margins in our society. This plan should include concrete steps to:

●      Promote and foster an inclusive campus climate;

●      Address concerns related to race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin and religious identity; and

●      Recruit and retain diverse faculty, staff and students.

With respect to sexual conduct and respect, there are two areas of focus. First, we need to do more to improve our policies and processes related to Title IX. I am directing members of the Executive Team to take responsibility for coordinating this effort, incorporating feedback from community members. It is also imperative that we address our campus culture related to sexual respect. My expectation for the Sexual Respect and Conduct Plan is that it will specifically focus on the climate issues related to sexual respect and sexual assault, taking into account the experiences and needs we have heard from members of our community.  This plan should include concrete steps to:

●      Further develop and deliver programming, training and education that promote a culture of sexual respect, foster a shared understanding of our expectations for all members of our community, and more effectively prevent sexual misconduct; and

●      Ensure that there are sufficient specially trained support services available.

During the course of their work, the groups working on these plans may expand the scope of these charges in response to the feedback they receive from the community.

If you are interested in working on either of these plans, please complete this form by December 14. The Executive Team will work with me to establish the membership of each planning team and name chairs by early-January. We will communicate the composition of each team to the campus at that time.

These are not easy tasks. I expect that the work of the planning groups will be intense and difficult, but also essential to the community we wish to create. Both teams will be provided a thematic summary of the feedback from the ENGAGE Summit survey. Both teams will also be provided additional feedback, recommendations and calls for action that have been shared with the administration through others means. Additionally, the two teams will periodically update each other on their progress and identify common structures and solutions that can improve the campus climate.

There is a critical need for addressing and changing campus culture in meaningful ways. These changes will need to be deliberate, and some of them might require persistence and ongoing efforts over a period of time. We know this is a beginning. I am confident, however, that together we will find ways to build the community of respect and inclusion which our mission and values demand of us. By doing so, we will make our campus and culture better for everyone.