March 5, 2023
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
It has been one week since members of Student Voices for Equity (SVE) began a series of demonstrations calling for fundamental change at the College, including a sit-in at Fanning Hall, organized rallies, spaces for testimonials, and a proposed set of intersectional solutions for transforming our campus and our culture. We know this period has elicited the fullest range of emotions, affecting each of us and our work in different ways. This letter seeks to provide an account of some of the steps taken since last Sunday and what we anticipate as we begin a new week together.
The senior leadership as a whole has been moved by the passionate demand to improve our culture and practices, and we are committed to taking action with care and humility. Along with many colleagues across campus, we have been supporting as many spaces for conversation and engagement as possible, not just to address the needs of our current moment but also to create a future with more equitable experiences for all.
In the past week in particular, members of the senior administration have been in dialogue with the leadership of SVE to envision a path forward. We have been checking on the safety and wellbeing of all of our students. And we have heard a strong sentiment—from both those who are protesting and those who have chosen not to protest—for returning to a more normal academic schedule beginning tomorrow. We support this. The deans are continuing to work with faculty and staff colleagues to find appropriate venues to meet professional needs while Fanning Hall is still affected.
In addition, we have been in dialogue with faculty about their concerns and possible resolutions. And we have been listening closely to members of the staff and recently received a document from the Staff Council summarizing their conversations with administration and trustees over the past weeks, which we are reviewing.
It is clear that the transformation that is now being called for can only happen with the collective and concerted effort of all stakeholders across campus. Deans Arcelus, Smith, and Egan, in a recent meeting with SVE, discussed as a group the opportunity for creating a long-term collaborative process to design a new framework for change. As we move into the coming week, Dean Egan will be meeting with faculty leadership, Vice President White will be meeting with the Staff Council, and Deans Arcelus and Smith will work with the Student Government Association and SVE to advance the conversation about both the framework and the process.
The Board of Trustees remains deeply engaged with all that is happening and has continued to meet to review the input they received from students, staff, faculty, and administrators to determine their own next steps. By necessity, their work is deliberative, with the aim of making decisions that are in the best interests of the College. We know they will be communicating with the campus once they have completed their process.
We look forward to the dialogues in the coming week and to our work together going forward.
R. Danielle Egan
W. Lee Hisle