March 1, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I have been reflecting deeply on our current moment and I am writing today to speak candidly on two matters under intense discussion at the College. One has to do with the College’s and my own commitment to equity, inclusion, and full participation. The other has to do with allegations about the culture of my senior administrative team. On the latter, I am grateful for the review that the Board of Trustees has undertaken, and I intend to take to heart and with humility whatever steps they may advise as a result.

On the question of our commitment to full participation, the past few weeks have thrown into sharp relief the ways our institution has fallen short of our collective aspirations. As president, I have been profoundly moved and humbled by the outpouring of frustration, anger, and disappointment from all quarters and by the overwhelming demand to bring our practices into alignment with our vision of Connecticut College as a more inclusive and equitable community.

That vision began, as you know, with the creation of the division of institutional equity and inclusion in 2016 and it developed with the Equity and Inclusion Action Plan of 2018. The plan sought to provide a roadmap for all the work the College must do to address racial and other forms of discrimination and to build a culture where all can thrive. The campus, national, and global contexts have now changed and I am determined to redouble our efforts in transforming our practices, policies, and campus culture.

I want to share with you some of the steps that are now underway. Specifically, I have:

  1. Charged the Vice President of Human Resources Reginald White and Interim Vice President of Finance Amanda Mayfield to review the personnel and operating budget of the Division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion so that we can ensure that the division is properly staffed and supported.
  2. Restructured student emergency funds in the office of the Dean of the College to better meet student needs.
  3. Identified new resources to support student programming for affinity groups and other student organizations in the Division of Equity and Inclusion.
  4. Begun building a web presence about resources for BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, undocumented, international, first-gen, disabled, and low-income students so that students, faculty, and staff can more easily access these resources.
  5. Approved immediate repairs of Unity House and charged Interim Vice President of Facilities Justin Wolfradt to work with the Director of Accessibility Services Jody Goldstein on addressing ADA compliance of Unity House and other DIEI spaces.
  6. Worked with the Dean of the Faculty Danielle Egan to identify potential interim leadership for the division of Institutional Equity and Inclusion.

Other demands will require further deliberation and I will provide additional updates as information becomes available. As you know, the Board of Trustees and I are prepared to make significant additional investments in our DIEI division, programs, and practices, informed by the campus community and outside experts so that those investments are impactful and lasting.

My senior team and I have been actively discussing many more important issues that have surfaced. For example, the Dean of Faculty is planning to engage those associated with Africana Studies, East Asian Studies, Hispanic Studies, Global Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, and Arabic Studies to develop strategies for more robust and consistent course offerings. The Vice President of Human Resources is examining opportunities to resume training for staff and faculty on equity, cultural humility, and anti-bias. And the senior leadership team as a whole is discussing new approaches to search practices across all divisions of the College to improve our ability as an institution to hire and retain BIPOC faculty and staff.

Over the past few weeks, members of the senior administration have been in meaningful dialogue with many different groups across campus. Dean Smith has met with members of the DIEI staff; Dean Egan has liaised with members of the faculty; and Dean Arcelus has been in constant communication with leaders of the Student Voices for Equity. I have met individually with students, faculty, and staff, including with Megan Monahan, who joined the DIEI staff on Jan. 30 as our new Associate Dean of Equity and Compliance Programs and Title IX Coordinator; and with Nicole Powell, our new Director of Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy, who recently began her role remotely and will be on campus soon.

It is my sincere hope that these collective efforts, especially the current vigorous engagement of many members of the community, will help open dialogue, restore trust, and advance the work we need to do to create the Connecticut College we envision.

Katherine Bergeron