BY ISN STAFF | May 17, 2016
SANTA CLARA, CA – In a time of heightened global attention to racial and social issues impacting people of color signified by unrest across the nation’s campuses, Santa Clara University (SCU) has announced that they will initiate a Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.
According to a press release distributed by SCU earlier this week, the decision by Fr. Michael Engh, S.J., SCU president, to establish a commission followed a discussion among university trustees about the nationwide state of campus racial climates. Student leaders from the university’s “Unity 4” initiative, a student group started after a campus racial incident in 2015, also provided significant input.
The commission includes leaders from the Silicon Valley and the local community who possess significant experience with advancing diversity and inclusion. Fr. Engh has charged the group with creating “an aspirational vision” to advance diversity and inclusion at SCU and to recommend “strategies for transformational change” that will make the university a more diverse, compassionate, and just university.
“The Blue Ribbon Commission provides an opportunity to step back and apply a wider lens that will guide us in creating a more diverse university and better position SCU to reach its full potential,” said Fr. Engh according to SCU release.
The Commission, which is expected to make formal recommendations in the fall, will examine ways in which Santa Clara can better recruit, retain, and support minorities who are underrepresented in students, faculty, and staff. As a starting point for its work, the group will host a town hall meeting on campus later this month.
“Fr. Engh’s leadership on this issue reflects the need for a comprehensive and long-term response to a serious issue,” said Frederick Ferrer, CEO of The Health Trust and chair of the Commission. “He recognizes the problem, the tenor of the nation, and understands the need to have a comprehensive conversation. The commission wants to hear directly from the Santa Clara University community. ”
Santa Clara has also sought insights from campus and diversity consultants in preparing for the commission. The Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Project, based at Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research, will conduct a study and a qualitative analysis of what diversity and inclusion should look like on the Santa Clara campus.
The Blue Ribbon Commission will be staffed by Lisa Millora, senior assistant provost for strategic initiatives and provost’s office relations. The group will be comprised of twelve members includes community leaders as well as Santa Clara alumni, and campus representatives, including: Frederick J. Ferrer, CEO; The Health Trust; Ed Alvarez, President and Chairman of the Board, The Foundation for Hispanic Education; Aldo Billingslea, Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion and Professor of Theatre Arts, Santa Clara University; Elsa Chen, Interim Associate Provost for Faculty Development and Associate Professor of Political Science, Santa Clara University; Isabel Duron, Former Director, Multicultural Center, Santa Clara University; Doctoral Student, Chicana/o Studies, UCLA; Sandra Hayes, Former Dean of Undergraduate Admission and Special Assistant to Vice President for Enrollment Management, Santa Clara University; Ronnie Lott, Founder, All Stars Helping Kids and former NFL football athlete; Kyle Ozawa, Head of Business Operations, Invoice2go; Risë R. Pichon, Presiding Superior Court Judge, Superior Court of Santa Clara; Jason Rodriguez, Vice President and Chief of Staff to the CEO of Hewlett Packard, Inc.; Lisa Stevens, Executive Vice President, Wells Fargo; and Richard Taylor, Senior Vice President for Human Resources, Intel.
Beyond Santa Clara University
Across the country, Jesuit college and university campuses have been responding to growing attention toward racial justice on their campuses. In February of this year, Georgetown University President Dr. Jack DeGioia, announced a number of steps to inform the Georgetown’s work to address racial injustice including the establishment of a major in African American Studies and seek to create a department or program of African American studies; to establish a new research center focused on racial injustice and the persistent and enduring legacy of racism and segregation in the American experience; and to recruit the number of faculty to support the above initiatives. Dr. DeGioia’s announcement came as Georgetown faced public criticism regarding the university’s history of slave ownership until 1838 when Jesuit university leaders to sold the men and women and slaves to generate needed funds to sustain the campus. In mid-April, The New York Times ran a feature story highlighting the historical reality facing campus leaders.
Seeking to increase campus diversity, Marquette University recently announced an ambitious plan to increase the school’s Hispanic student enrollment by more than 15 percent over the next 10 years. The school also hopes to earn a specialized Hispanic-serving institution designation, making Marquette eligible for grants from the Department of Education. “Marquette is a Catholic and Jesuit university, so part of our history and our mission calls us to provide a higher education to first-generation college students, particularly those from immigrant families,” said Marquette Provost Dr. Daniel Myers. Citing the university’s strategic plan, Myers added, “If Marquette is to be a leading university, we need to diversify our student body.”-
Student government presidents at the 28 Jesuit college and universities across the United States joined together to take a stand against racial injustice and made a commitment to “publicly stand in solidarity with these students and their allies.” The group of 29 student government leaders representing all of the U.S. Jesuit higher education institutions issued a joint statement on March 28, 2016. Citing the racial justice student activism at non-Jesuit universities across the U.S. including: University of Missouri, Claremont McKenna, Ithaca College, San Jose State University, and Howard University, the group of student leaders called on “all institutions of higher education to stand together and take action in advocating for an end to racial inequality in its many manifestations.”