Update from President Crutcher and the Board of Trustees

April 23, 2021

Dear Members of the University Community,

We are writing with updates from the Board of Trustees’ meetings this week.

Commission Planning

The Board discussed planning for the commission that will develop and recommend principles to guide decisions about renaming. We will finalize and communicate the specific charge and composition of the commission as soon as possible. The commission will be asked to complete its work by December 31, 2021, if feasible.

The commission will be broadly inclusive, with membership from our faculty, staff, students, and alumni, selected by their appropriate representative body, not by the Board. The commission will also have Trustee representation and will include external, independent members with relevant experience and expertise. As we have indicated, the commission’s work will itself be inclusive and will ensure that the perspectives of students, faculty, staff, and alumni are carefully considered. As one means of gathering broad and substantive input, the University will retain the services of a nationally recognized research firm to undertake a comprehensive survey of faculty, staff, students, and alumni to inform the commission’s work. Selection of the research firm and planning for the survey will occur over the summer, and the survey will be launched no later than the first weeks of the fall semester. The planning group continues to welcome input from the community and can be contacted here. We are grateful for the suggestions provided thus far.

DEI Committee

The Board also voted unanimously to establish a Board standing committee focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion at the University. In the coming weeks, we will develop the specific charge for the committee and finalize other details, with the expectation that the committee will begin its work by the fall. In electing to establish this committee, the Board reaffirmed its collective commitment to the University’s diversity, inclusion, and equity goals and to our shared aspirations to ensure that our academic community is a welcoming environment in which all members can thrive.

Institutional priorities relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion were also a focus in our meetings this week. Trustees thoroughly reviewed the University’s progress in strengthening undergraduate retention and graduation rates across all student populations. The Academic and Enrollment Management Committee discussed in detail Admission’s ongoing, significant work to recruit African American and other students of color and continued conversations about the changing demographics of the U.S. college-going population. Executive Vice President and Provost Jeff Legro also provided an update on the approval of the Africana Studies major and minor in the School of Arts & Sciences. Trustees were also informed about the expansion of the Multicultural Student Space in Whitehurst and plans to ensure student organizations can reserve an open lodge for social gatherings and programming beginning this fall.

In closing, we would like to express our deep gratitude to all faculty, staff, and students for their perseverance and resilience in this challenging year. You enabled the University to resume and sustain residential education and in-person instruction despite the many difficulties posed by the pandemic. You also sustained the highest levels of excellence in scholarship; teaching; competition for prestigious grants, scholarships, and fellowships; athletic competition; and numerous other areas. And you ensured our ability to advance important institutional priorities — including our inclusive excellence work — while, in effect, reinventing the way we teach, learn, and live in the context of the pandemic. The Board looks forward to continued collaboration with faculty, staff, students, and alumni to advance the University.

With best wishes to our students as you prepare for final exams, and with congratulations to all of our 2021 graduates,

President Ronald A. Crutcher and the Board of Trustees