Message from the President
To: John Carroll University Community
From: Robert L. Niehoff, S.J., President
Re: Commitment to Diversity
I write to share with you some thoughts about community, the type of community that we profess to be and the community we are becoming. As you cross the campus this year you may be aware that we are visibly a much more diverse community than in previous years. I have been sharing with our alums and with the Board that at the student level, faculty level and Board level we are more diverse today than John Carroll has ever been in its history. Our goal to become a community of inclusion, in which we learn from each other continuously in mutual respect and collaboration, must now be lived more fully. It is no longer enough that this goal be an expression of mere sentiment. We need to become more sensitive to when we might fall short of the goal, to when we have made others uncomfortable by disregarding their feelings and simplifying their experiences. Growing in sensitivity to the life history, unique experiences and special needs of others is crucial to our goals as a diverse community.
Thinking about the impact of our actions on others must become second nature to us. Indeed, our core values as a university emphasize developing the whole person, on sharing our gifts with one another, on committing to a just world, require nothing less of us. Whether others differ from us in race, age, faith tradition, gender or sexual orientation, our mission is to strive to be a respectful community. This challenge is, of course, not unique to John Carroll; the City of Cleveland and the larger community also struggle with these delicate matters. And so, by living our Mission, we not only will benefit from opportunities to learn from each other within our own campus but, by so learning, we will also become leaders within our greater community.
Consistent to these thoughts, John Carroll must translate concerns about inclusivity and sensitivity into process and action. We do this already. Our active Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Directors, faculty women’s group, faculty of color group, and student groups supporting diversity – all continue to be valuable resources. Last year’s appointment of an associate academic vice president for academic programs and faculty diversity is another important ingredient in the process. Going forward, we commit to being ever more intentional in programming for learning and inclusion -- especially in curriculum initiatives and in student affairs. As one aspect of this commitment, I am announcing that we are re-aligning the Office of Multicultural Affairs so that it interacts more closely with Student Affairs in order to clarify better the essential role that this important office plays in supporting students of color.
We intend also to create a special role for ombudspersons. As happens at other universities, these individuals will serve as resources for students, faculty and staff who experience discomfort and who seek direction for their concerns. Ombudspersons will enable us to engage and respond more quickly to situations involving insensitivity or which represent a lack of inclusion and therefore challenge our campus climate. You will soon hear more about these new services which will assist the university and all the individuals within it.
While some of us may be impatient with the pace of change in our community, and while at times our processes for change may be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, I invite all of you to join me in this discussion and in helping to implement institutional actions designed to bring about a more inclusive university community. Such discussions may involve uncertainties and discomforts, all very human responses to change. Still, whatever comments or suggestions you may have regarding these matters, I urge you to share them with your supervisor, department head, chair or dean so that the issues may be seriously and constructively considered. In this way we will learn from each other and contribute to a John Carroll community that invites all of its members to participate and to learn from one another and to be characterized, ultimately, by affirmation.
Many of you have shared with me your hopes and aspirations for the community that we both want and can be. Now let our actions identify us as that community for inclusion and affirmation. Thank you for your continued role in helping to make all of this happen.
February 6, 2008