Equity and Inclusion on our Campus
November 18, 2020
Dear Saint Mary’s College Community,
We write today to update you on the ongoing work we are doing at Saint Mary’s College to promote a just and inclusive campus culture and to build a more diverse community—where students can learn and grow together, curious about their various backgrounds, experiences, and opinions and energized by difference.
As you know, in the first week of June, Saint Mary’s took a strong stand against racism, issuing both a cabinet statement about the national crisis involving systemic racism and violence against Black Americans and a Board statement responding to alumnae who asked for specific evidence that Saint Mary’s was making progress on equity and inclusion in our own campus environment. We listened to the voices of alumnae who recounted painful experiences during their years at the College. Since then, we have worked steadily to ensure that the Catholic values of solidarity and human dignity animate our community. We know we must do better.
So, what has happened since June? Quite a lot of actual progress and formal planning for even more. We made a public statement denouncing the murders of George Floyd and others as we responded to our alumnae demands. We have established not only a scholarship named for early African American alumna Marguerite Edwards ‘53, but also a scholarship named for Juanita Boozer Bay ’52, the first African American graduate of Saint Mary’s College. We have met with several potential donors in an effort to secure funding for our diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice initiatives. We incorporated our College commitment to anti-racism and social justice into the student leaders’ orientation and first-year orientation, and we will make those programs even better over time. Just this semester, the Office of Inclusion and Equity has developed programming and collaborated with several departments on campus to produce events such as:
- Two Conversation Cafés with more than 120 participants;
- A panel discussion with scholars titled Do All Lives Really Matter;
- Diversity focused programs in the residence halls;
- A faculty and staff workshop focused on civil discourse;
- A five-week Black Lives Matter in Film Fest co-sponsored with the Gender and Women’s Studies Department;
- A virtual art gallery exhibition co-sponsored with the Department of Art that highlighted artist Jen Everett’s photographs from the 2014 Ferguson uprising; and
- An event titled On Conversations with Dr. Myisha Cherry co-sponsored with the Department of Philosophy and Program in Justice Studies.
In addition, we enhanced resources dedicated to students of color, first-generation college students, low socioeconomic students, and LGBTQ+ students through SMC Care, our 24/7 telehealth provider. Faculty and administration have actively supported student-generated, diversity-focused events, even in this period of COVID—and we have encouraged and sponsored new events, including election-related programming. Our commitment to education and training for all Saint Mary’s College constituencies will begin at the Board level, first with the Board’s DEI Strategic Priority Team in December, followed by the full Board. We have also been working with the Alumnae Association Board to support their diversity initiatives.
Looking toward the future, we have added an assistant director position in the Office of Inclusion and Equity, and we have launched and nearly completed a college-wide strategic planning process that commits to new diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice goals. These goals will inform changes in how we educate our community, represent the College in marketing materials, execute our admissions practices, and seek external support. The Office of Inclusion and Equity has a robust plan that will continue to advance these efforts and fulfill the commitments made by the Board. These coordinated plans serve as a pledge to the Saint Mary’s community and as an important step in our journey.
We are encouraged by the work that we have been able to accomplish in the first year of the Office of Inclusion and Equity’s existence. We have taken great strides but there is still more important work to be done. We will continue to evaluate our progress, engage in difficult dialogues, and pilot new ideas as we move forward in our quest for a just campus. Thank you for engaging in this valuable work with us and for your dedication to Saint Mary’s College.
Katie Conboy, Ph.D.
Redgina Hill, Ph.D.
Executive Director of Inclusion & Equity