I am grateful that MRC coalition students brought forward their concerns in such a way that we can now work together on solutions. I regret deeply that any student feels pain as a result of their experience at Seattle University and particularly within the Matteo Ricci College. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories of some students because I know that from the president to the provost to the deans and every faculty member, all of us want students to experience a sense of agency, self-possession and voice. I cannot account for those who went before me, but as the person who now occupies the position of dean in Matteo Ricci College, I give you my word that voices will be heard and solutions will be discovered—together.
This has been communicated already, but it bears repeating: With backing from the Provost’s Office, the Matteo Ricci College offered two initiatives in response to the coalition’s requests.
1. Curriculum: A committee of Matteo Ricci College faculty, current students, alumni and a coalition student will be convened by a consultant to conduct a comprehensive review of the curricula of our degree programs in response to the concerns and requests put before us. The committee will be tasked to bring forth recommendations to address the students’ concerns. Their findings and recommendations will be presented to Interim Provost Dullea for consideration by December 2016.
2. Culture: I will work with the Provost’s Office to hire a different consultant to conduct an assessment of the culture, climate and manner of discourse and engagement both inside and outside the classroom. The consultant will be asked to provide recommendations on how best to serve and support our students, faculty and staff. Additionally, racial and cultural literacy training will be made available for all faculty and staff. This process will begin during summer quarter and extend throughout academic year 2017.
I applaud The Spectator for its efforts to present open communication on such a sensitive topic. Name calling polarizes us and places us in direct opposition to each other. Further, it betrays the coalition’s laudable goal of inclusion. And it leaves a lasting and painful stamp on those who are targeted.
It must be acknowledged that not all students in the Matteo Ricci College share the coalition’s positions, which makes it incumbent on us all to lift every voice. It is for that reason that I would encourage the university community to heed the Spectator’s example and enter into dialogue with each other, beginning with the facts. For example:
* It is not true that the Matteo Ricci College has bypassed program reviews (PR) since 1991. We submitted PRs that were accepted by the Associate Provost in 2002 and again in 2009, and we are currently undergoing the 2016 review.
* It is not true that I don’t listen or that I fail to act on feedback. After hearing capstone presentations from the first BA Humanities for Leadership cohort last spring, I hired an expert on curriculum design. This year we launched a reading seminar for freshmen that includes some of the same books on the coalition’s reading list. Equally important are the questions posed in the seminar: How does gender matter? What difference does gender make? What is power for? What does war do? What is justice? How does race matter? What does racism look like? What makes a good society? How do we know a good citizen? We are currently juggling with logistics to require this seminar of all freshmen next year and to offer a new seminar for sophomores with a view to scaling across all four years.
* It is not true that I don’t strive for inclusiveness. At my invitation, faculty and staff gathered for two 2-hour sessions on the book, Critical Race Theory, the first in a series of seminars on How to Make Every Student as Successful as Possible. Our plan is to advance the discussion this summer with faculty interested in reworking their syllabi.
There is much more to say, but let me close with a belief that I hold close to my heart: we are only as successful as we move forward together. How could it be otherwise if, as 12th Century mystic Meister Eckhart claims, every creature is a word of God? With that as a backdrop, I hold this time of trial as a time of grace, and I invite you all into that space as we consider together through dialogue with one another these important issues.