Responding to Our Community Forum and Student Protest

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Following our forum conversation Wednesday evening and Thursday’s protest, I wanted to address some of the issues raised by students with the College community. Let me note at the top that this e-mail does not address all the issues, such as faculty accountability, that were raised at the forum or in the protest—some of these require faculty discussion, and over the next week or two I believe we can make progress on them and report out. We realize as a community, of course, that some discussions, such as reviewing and revising the Core, will take longer.

That said, a number of actions can be started immediately or in the very near future. This email attempts to outline what is being undertaken now. As we promised at the end of Wednesday’s forum, we will continue to provide ongoing updates on our progress as the Harvey Mudd College community strives toward our shared goals of creating an equitable educational environment and offering a challenging but manageable curriculum.

Student involvement in revision of the core curriculum

We are committed to ensuring direct involvement from both current and former students as part of the review of the Core Curriculum, which will take place in 2017-18. The faculty will undertake a self-study of the Core beginning next fall; later in the year, we will invite reviewers from other institutions to analyze and make recommendations on our self-study. While we do not know yet exactly what the student participation will look like, we will be inviting current and former students to provide input as part of the self-study and review with the expectation that the external reviewers will take all voices into account as they develop their findings. We will also include consideration of the 128-unit graduation requirement as part of these discussions, and we will work to include students in future curricular redesigns.

Regulating student workload

I will begin discussions with the Department Chairs Committee (DCC) and Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) in what remains of the semester about what a unit of credit really means, and to determine what is the best way to gather data so that we know that courses are remaining reasonably true to that standard.  In having that discussion, we will review and perhaps revise the section in the Faculty Notebook (section 7.2.1) about the amount of work that should accompany a unit of credit.

Transparency and reporting

As was suggested in the forum, in the next two weeks we will build a website so that we can report regularly on our progress and host documents related to that reporting.  We will share the link with the community once the site is active. We will update this site on a regular basis and include email communications to the community to let students know about these efforts.

Budget for departments that directly impact student life on campus (DSA, OHW, OID)

President Klawe has asked the Business Affairs Office to pull together a ten-year budget analysis for the Division of Student Affairs. We should be able to share preliminary information before the end of the semester, and depending on the level of complexity and additional questions students might have, we can follow up with further budget information.

More funding for mental health

President Klawe has committed an additional $15,000 from her discretionary budget to support student access to mental health resources (including covering co-pays, ride shares, transportation, etc.). Students should continue to work through the Office of Health and Wellness to make arrangements and to obtain financial support.

More funding for diversity organizations

The College has added some funding recently, including the Food for the Soul Fund and gift of $50,000 for a two-year commitment to support travel to professional conferences for marginalized students, including conferences such as SACNAS, NSBE, TAPIA, SWE, Grace Hopper, etc. In addition, after our fall Saddle Rock retreat a trustee of the College donated funding to support a second OID graduate assistant for two years. We will continue our efforts to fundraise around these and other student affairs funding priorities.

More forums

We will hold more forums over the remainder of the semester to address issues of diversity, inclusion, and workload.  Since there were many questions in the forum about shared governance, promotion and tenure, and other faculty processes, I propose using a forum during the week of April 10 to discuss those processes and answer student questions.

Request for a Timeline for Addressing Campus Climate

The College is committed to releasing information over the next several weeks that will provide a more detailed timeline for shorter and longer term items identified through our conversations. In addition to the items mentioned above, by the end of semester, we expect to have a more comprehensive timeline that outlines what we plan to do this fall and into next year.
I hope this update has provided you with some of the information you have requested as well as responses to some of the issues you have raised. I will be having continuing conversations with faculty members about additional steps we plan to take, and I will send another update to you via email next week.

Sincerely,

–Jeff Groves