DEIJ Update from the Presidents

Dear Campus Community:

We write with an update on our crucial diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) work at CSB and SJU. Last month, we shared ambitious goals for spring semester. There is much to share as we build DEIJ infrastructure to support our Benedictine values of justice, hospitality, community living, and respect for persons.

We have named a DEIJ Coordinating Council and initially charged them to 1) conduct an audit of current DEIJ programs, services, and investments and 2) identify gaps that can be addressed through future DEIJ work.

Members of the DEIJ Coordinating Council include:

  • Malik Stewart, Interim Director of Intercultural and International Student Services (chair)
  • Fr. Timothy Backous, OSB, SJU Faculty Resident
  • Belen Dominguez, CSB Student Senate Representative
  • Dr. Corrie Grosse, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
  • Wes Kirchner, SJU Student Senate Representative
  • Dr. Amanda Macht Jantzer, Associate Professor of Psychology
  • Margaret Nuzzolese Conway, Executive Director of SJU Campus Ministry
  • Dr. Deborah Pembleton, Associate Professor of Global Business
  • Heather Pieper-Olson, Associate Vice President for CSB Advancement

The principles behind DEIJ are an essential part of our Catholic and Benedictine values, most especially hospitality, and Catholic social teaching. We are asking the Council to think broadly, to bring ideas such as community, solidarity and human dignity to the fore.

The IISS team, under Malik Stewart’s leadership, is considering how the IISS office and its staff can be restructured for improved student programming and mentoring.

The IISS team is also evaluating, along with student groups, two possible sites for a multicultural center, with a target of opening a new multicultural space by fall 2021. Philanthropic support for this renovation project and additional scholarship and programming dollars are actively being sought at both CSB and SJU.

We have requested permission from the Mellon Foundation to extend the work of Becoming Community through the 2021-22 academic year and expect a positive response. The HEDS Diversity and Equity Campus Climate survey has been administered and we expect the results this summer, providing the campus community with crucial information on perceptions of our campus climate, perceptions of how CSB/SJU supports diversity and equity, and experiences with discrimination and harassment at CSB/SJU. External evaluator Libby Smith is also eliciting narratives from campus community members about their experience with Becoming Community. This work will be followed by a session contributing to the development of a summative narrative and next steps for CSB/SJU in the inclusion journey.

Comments on the draft anti-racism statement have been received from the CSB and SJU Boards of Trustees and the Student Senates. We invite all members of the CSB/SJU community to share feedback on the draft statement before April 19. The statement will be redrafted to reflect campus input and distributed to the community once approved. Thank you to all who have and will comment on this important statement.

Strong and consistent collaboration between students and CSB/SJU Leadership Team members on the Student Senate’s Call to Action has resulted in many cooperative projects. An institutional database has been created to record our progress within each area of the Call to Action. Student Senators reported to committees of the Board of Trustees in February and will continue to monitor institutional progress. The Student Senates and many other groups across campus have collaborated to focus this semester’s Community Engagement Days to support DEIJ learning, engaging topics like xenophobia, tolerance, unconscious bias, indigenous food, authentic leadership and white fragility.

This is difficult and complicated work. We are propelled by words from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism:

Racism can only end if we contend with the policies and institutional barriers that perpetuate and preserve the inequality—economic and social—that we still see all around us. With renewed vigor, we call on the members of the Body of Christ to join others in advocating and promoting policies at all levels that will combat racism and its effects in our civic and social institutions. (p. 28)

As we wrote in February, our goal is to develop a DEIJ infrastructure that supports and reflects our values; includes and enhances ongoing DEIJ work across both campuses; collaborates on and centralizes crucial DEIJ programming and creates institutional accountability; and benefits from grant and philanthropic funding. We value your support and involvement as we pursue this goal, and we welcome your commitment to building a truly inclusive community that reflects our shared Benedictine values.

Sincerely,

Laurie Hamen, J.D.
Interim President
College of Saint Benedict

Eugene McAllister, Ph.D.
Interim President
Saint John’s University