Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:
Yesterday, I spent the day and evening with about forty students in my office, actively listening to their personal and shared experiences, deep concerns, and imaginative, constructive suggestions.
As you know, our students have documented many disturbing stories, and disseminated them through flyers across the campus. I stand by our students. I support their right to speak out forcefully, and want their voices to be heard. In this extraordinarily important moment for our campus, I have asked that staff disregard our campus posting rules and refrain from removing these flyers until Monday morning to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to read and reflect on these narratives. I urge each of you to consider, discuss, and engage thoughtfully with what you read and hear from your own experience and point of view.
In full alignment with the conversations with our students, we have highlighted a number of institutional needs and action steps—much foundational work has been done across the College and in the climate committee, now chaired by Dean Uvin. As I promised yesterday, I want to set forth today, key, concrete actions we have taken, highlighting those of primary concern to our students.
We have authorized the creation of a new leadership position on diversity and inclusion within Student Affairs, dedicated to provide direct student support and educational and experiential programming for the entire campus. Dean Huang crafted a job description last week, and it will be posted soon.
We have replaced Barbara Guerra-Torres with Sean J. Rollalazo, who joins us from Elon University in North Carolina. We will welcome his arrival to campus in early December. Also, we are extending the role of one of our admissions and financial aid officers to provide transitional assistance to incoming students, especially those who are the first in their family to attend college.
We will continue to work with KLI to expand programs such as the sophomore leadership experience that enhance students’ skills in engaging in difficult discourse. We will utilize the Athenaeum to build a series of regularly scheduled, ongoing participatory programs to bring students, faculty, and staff together for serious discussions about issues that affect our campus community and society more broadly.
We will improve the performance of student affairs. To start, I have asked Dean Huang to conduct a full review of the Dean of Students office and its capacity and performance in support of our students.
We have authorized the creation of a new leadership position on diversity and inclusion within Academic Affairs, dedicated to supporting faculty recruitment, ongoing efforts to integrate and strengthen diversity throughout the curriculum, and the provision of resources to faculty in their work with students from diverse experiences and backgrounds. Dean Uvin created a job description last week, and it will be posted soon.
Dean Uvin also created a task force to provide concrete recommendations in spring 2016 that will bolster and increase access to academic support services for students from orientation to graduation. This includes enhancements to established support systems as well as adjustments to institutional advising and mentorship. Since last Summer, the Dean of the Faculty’s office has been working with every faculty search committee to (i) ensure that proactive measures are adopted to create the most talented and diverse pool of applicants possible, and (ii) become more aware of the way implicit biases play a role in all of our lives, and what we can do to minimize these. All faculty involved in searches this year participated in these discussions and workshops.
Dialogue and PSR Climate Space
Last week, we authorized Dean Uvin to organize a day of dialogue this Spring. We are in the process of planning a set of events for students, faculty, and staff to discuss the best way to do this—identify clear goals and topics and approaches. In preparation for this event, we will provide in-depth facilitator training to faculty and staff in how to manage difficult conversations. An important additional benefit of such a day of dialogue, then, would be the presence on our campus of a significant group of people equipped with more tools and confidence to more ably engage in this sort of conversation in the future.
To be supported by the two staff positions in student and academic affairs, we have authorized the creation of a new programming space to support campus climate (identity, diversity, and free speech). This space will be dedicated to collaborative, educational work by students, professional staff, and other experts on diversity, identity, civil rights, and free speech issues on our campus. A specific location will be chosen among identified alternatives in the coming weeks, and plans will be finalized by the beginning of the spring semester.
Each of these foregoing efforts will heavily involve students, and will be supported by faculty and staff.
Thank you in advance for your shared commitment to these and future actions.
Hiram E. Chodosh
Claremont McKenna College
500 East Ninth Street
Claremont, CA 91711-6400
Business No. (909) 621-8111