Message To The Bowdoin Community (August 29, 2017)
August 29, 2017 by Office of the President
To the Bowdoin campus community:
Welcome back. It has been a busy summer, and it is terrific to have everyone on campus as we begin our 216th academic year.
I am writing today to provide you with the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inclusion and to let you know about a search we are undertaking for a senior vice president for inclusion and diversity, a new position at the College.
Most of you will recall that, in December 2015, I asked Camille Charles (University of Pennsylvania) and Rory Kramer (Villanova University) to help us understand better how to make Bowdoin an even more inclusive community, with a particular focus on our students and on race and ethnicity. Camille and Rory spent the spring of 2016 doing their work. They delivered their report later that spring and, at this time last year, I wrote to tell you that I had asked a group of faculty, students, staff, and trustees to determine which of the Charles/Kramer recommendations should be adopted, in what ways, and what more we might do. In addition to considering race and ethnicity, I asked the group to focus specifically on the challenges faced by our first-generation students and those that affect our students who receive significant amounts of financial aid. The final version of this ad hoc committee’s report was delivered to me a few weeks ago. I am deeply grateful to all the members of the committee—Olufemi Vaughan (chair), Leana Amaez, Ron Brady ’89, Andrea Cross, Michael Eppler ’17, Ann Kenyon ’79, Mohamed Nur ’19, Roy Partridge, Scott Perper ’78, Wirunwan Pitaktong ’17, Marilyn Reizbaum, Elizabeth Stemmler, and Alice Wiercinski—for their remarkable commitment to this project and for the quality of their insights and recommendations. Their work will make us better.
As the committee notes in their report, Bowdoin is a place where we have achieved a great deal with respect to inclusion and diversity, but there is more that we can and should do. Bowdoin, like so many other colleges and universities, is notable for our diversity, across so many dimensions of history, experience, and identity. This diversity holds great promise for profoundly enhancing the education of our students and the work of our faculty, for providing a much deeper and richer personal experience for all of us, and for developing in our community the skills to embrace this diversity and help develop inclusive communities in the world outside Bowdoin. But because this diversity is so often not found elsewhere in our society, the skills, habits, and structures necessary to build increasingly inclusive communities need to be developed and enhanced. We are on the path to doing this, but we have more work to do to fully realize its promise.
As you will see, the committee’s central recommendation is to create a position on the senior staff of the College, reporting to me, to oversee the effort to be an even more inclusive community and to further enhance our diversity—a senior vice president for inclusion and diversity (SVP-ID). As I discuss below, we have begun the work to hire this person. Another key recommendation is the adoption by the College of the philosophy of “inclusive excellence”—the standard in this area among many of the leading American colleges and universities—to guide us in this work, and we will do so. With respect to the committee’s other recommendations, let me take them in turn:
- We will make resources available for additional training and engagement, and the new SVPI&D will guide the work in this area;
- I have asked Dean Liz McCormack to review our Exploring Social Differences (ESD) and International Perspectives (IP) distribution requirements, both in terms of content and in the timing of their completion. As the committee recommended, we will also consider how we “model intellectual disagreement without dissension” through curricular and extracurricular programming that “offers a range of ideas and philosophies on an issue” (from the Charles/Kramer report). It is worth noting that work on this issue began last year.
- We have begun some exciting work on more robust programming and support structures for students who come from less well-prepared backgrounds, and I will have more to share on this in the coming weeks;
- The new SVP-ID will work with the senior staff of the College to continue to improve our recruiting and mentoring of underrepresented faculty and staff; and
- Similarly, the new SVP-ID will work with the senior staff and board of trustees to establish goals and to measure and understand our progress.
Finally, I am mindful of and agree with the committee’s view that, as president, I have the ultimate responsibility for our work and our success on inclusion and diversity, and I will continue to be deeply engaged with these issues. I welcome your thoughts on the committee’s report, and you can send them to me at email@example.com.
With respect to the search for our new SVP-ID, I have assembled a committee (below) of faculty, students, and staff to work with me on this search, and I am very grateful to each of the individuals who has agreed to provide their time and wisdom. We have retained the search firm of Russell Reynolds Associates, which has extensive experience and success in these searches, and they will be on campus on Monday, September 25, to hear from as many members of the community as possible in order to inform the work they will do and to give us the best opportunity to find the right individual for this role. Their visit will include open forums for the campus community. We have also created an email address (SVP-IDsearch@bowdoin.edu) to further encourage those with thoughts and insights to share them with the committee and Russell Reynolds Associates.
A job description for this new position will be crafted when we are able to use what has been learned from your email messages and the search firm visit, and, as the committee recommended, aspects of the responsibilities and activities of this office will take shape after our new SVP has had the opportunity to gain a sense for the campus and issues. With that in mind, I do want to share with you some of the characteristics and aspects of the role as we now know them. This position will report to me and be part of the College’s senior staff. The SVP-ID will consider the many aspects of diversity, including race, ethnicity, religion, economic background, first-generation status, gender, sexuality, disability, and differing political perspectives (our articulation of the standard from the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education). A fundamental responsibility will be to help the College further build an inclusive community—one where we, at least, understand and celebrate our differences, where we draw strength from being connected as a part of Bowdoin, and where discourse about the tough questions and issues of inclusion and diversity are engaged in a thoughtful, respectful, and authentic manner. The SVP-ID will focus on issues of inclusion and diversity for all the parts of our community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and trustees—and will work closely with the many individuals currently engaged in this work around campus, as well as the board of trustees.
Again, my thanks to the members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Inclusion for all their efforts to bring us to this point, and to the search committee for their work to come as we begin this next phase.
Search Committee – Senior Vice President for Inclusion and Diversity
Tim Foster, dean of student affairs
Mohammad Irfan, assistant professor of digital and computational studies and computer science
Claudia Marroquin ’06, director of admissions
Leash Menard, academic department coordinator, visual arts
Osa Omoregie ’18
Roy Partridge, special assistant to the president for multicultural affairs and visiting assistant professor of sociology
Elizabeth Pritchard, associate professor of religion, chair of committee for faculty diversity and inclusion
Tama Spoerri, vice president of human resources
Dharni Vasudevan, professor of chemistry and environmental studies and chair of the department of chemistry
Daisy Wislar ’18
Clayton Rose, president (chair)