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Memorandum December 13, 2016

To:
AU Community
From:
Neil Kerwin, President
Subject:
End of Semester Update

I am writing to the AU community at the close of the fall semester to report on a number of important matters. In past years, I have used this opportunity to summarize achievements and identify challenges. We have seen more than our share of the latter, recently, and I encourage all of us to consider how we can make the remainder of the academic year more fulfilling and productive.

Condition of the University

Our university remains strong. Recent accomplishments by our faculty, students, staff, and alumni, as well as recognition earned for AU programs and initiatives, demonstrate that in the work of our core mission, we have much to celebrate. Along with our larger society, however, we are experiencing a difficult, troubling, and divisive time. As a learning community, we must focus on our core mission and work to ensure a climate where all can thrive.

Campus Climate

Throughout the semester we have experienced incidents that have called into question our ability to provide a truly inclusive environment for all members of our community. These included recent, anonymous acts, such as the overnight posting of derogatory fliers in classroom buildings, the drawing of swastikas on classroom boards, and the writing of racial epithets on the white boards on residence hall doors. Two of these three cases are under active investigation, and the third has been adjudicated and closed. We move swiftly to investigate such acts, identify those responsible and hold them accountable, through criminal and/or student conduct charges. We will not tolerate the corrosive effects of this kind of misconduct on our campus community.

I ask all of us to recognize that biased and disparaging actions and words threaten some members of our community and impair their ability to pursue their studies and focus on their work. Such conduct diminishes us all and the quality of our shared life on this campus. We respect and preserve the right of free expression. In exercising this right, we ask that all members of our community conduct themselves with basic consideration for others, take responsibility for their actions, and work towards greater understanding.

As we respond to events on our campus and beyond, the actions of university leaders will not always satisfy those with strongly held views. Nonetheless, we have a common purpose-to create a climate that advances our mission through adherence to core values. An example of this approach is the work of the President's Council on Diversity and Inclusion. The council has met weekly throughout the semester, under the leadership of Professor Caleen Jennings. In addition to considering ways to advance the plan for diversity and inclusion put forth last spring, council members have been a constant presence at campus events. They are currently developing objectives for diversity and inclusion for years nine and ten of AU's strategic plan.

Other examples of our proactive approach to build an inclusive climate are the numerous sessions, held across the campus, that give our community members opportunities to discuss in depth, issues of diversity and inclusion, generally, and the implications of the election, more specifically. We will redouble our efforts to provide these opportunities next semester.

Underscoring the values associated with these efforts, over the past several weeks, I joined other university and college presidents to restate our commitment to core values and express support for public policies, including endorsing responsible global engagement; the DACA program for undocumented immigrant students; and the condemnation of "harassment, hate, and acts of violence". In signing these, I am affirming American University's positions on these critical issues.

Recently, I received a petition from members of the AU faculty expressing concern for undocumented persons, requesting the university afford protection to these members of our community, and asking that we consider becoming a sanctuary campus. We will soon issue a statement regarding the support and protections we will provide for undocumented members of our community.

When we return from the winter break, I will encourage each of us to consider the responsibility we have to create the climate we seek. We should remember what brings us together as an academic community and engage in ways that reinforce our values, especially when navigating our differences.

Board of Trustees Meeting

The Board of Trustees met on November 17-18. Board chairman Jack Cassell summarized the major actions and highlights, most notably a presentation by members of the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program; approval of Budget Formulation Guidelines; and the appointment of our new Student Trustee-Elect, Valentina Fernandez, a sophomore majoring in political science.

Strategic Plan Objectives for Years Nine and Ten

Following my initial call to the community for proposed objectives for years nine and ten of the university strategic plan, we received a number of recommendations and they have been given serious consideration. I am issuing another call, particularly to those who have not yet participated in this effort. In late January, I will send a set of proposed objectives (drawn from the submitted ideas) to the community for a final review and comment. Objectives will be finalized and sent to the board for their review. These objectives will shape the funding decisions made during the final stages of the budget process currently underway.

Budget Preparation

The University Budget Committee, co-chaired by Provost Scott Bass and Vice President Doug Kudravetz and consisting of representatives from the Faculty Senate; Washington College of Law; Campus Life; Human Resources; Student Government; Graduate Leadership Council; and Staff Council, have worked through the fall conducting the preliminary analyses of projected enrollment and other sources of revenue for the next two years. A budget call has been issued to the leadership of the university's divisions. Over the next two months, the committee will develop a draft budget proposal for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, consistent with the budget formulation guidelines and strategic plan objectives. I will review and submit the proposed budget to the Board of Trustees for their consideration and action during their meeting in early March. Once approved, a budget report will be shared with the university community.

East Campus Opens

We will relocate 287 students from main campus to Congressional and Federal residence halls for spring 2017. Students who elected to live in one of these new halls have demonstrated tremendous patience and cooperation this semester while occupying contingency housing. Professional moving services will move these residents' belongings to East Campus over the winter break. When the students return in January, they will move directly into Congressional or Federal Hall. The third East Campus residence hall, Constitution Hall, is scheduled to open in late January. There will be a room change process for second, third, and fourth year students interested in moving to one of the new halls at that time. Resident students should watch for more information from Housing and Dining Programs in January.

Fall Commencement

On Wednesday, December 21, we celebrate our summer and fall graduates with fall commencement in Bender Arena. More than 4,000 are expected to attend, including 470 graduates, family, friends, and university officials. The commencement speaker will be Dr. Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress, who will receive an honorary degree for her lifelong work in making information more accessible and libraries more modern.

Contract Workers' Scholarship

Last spring, I announced the launch of full tuition scholarships, for the dependents of employees who work for our contract partners (housekeeping, food service, and mail service workers), to attend American University. These scholarships represent AU's staunch commitment to ensure that members of our community have the access necessary to make an AU education a reality. The scholarships will be available for fall 2017 admission. We have worked through the eligibility and application requirements, which were made available to workers in both English and Spanish. Our partners have made their employees aware of this opportunity.

WAMU's New National Program

After 37 years on the air at WAMU as the broadcasting exemplar of civilized dialogue, Diane Rehm will step aside from her daily program at the end of December, but remain an important part of WAMU. Her program, The Diane Rehm Show, nationally distributed by National Public Radio, garnered a weekly national audience of some 2. 6 million on 198 stations. The new successor program in the coveted 10 a.m. to 12 noon timeslot will be 1A hosted by Joshua Johnson, who comes to WAMU from the San Francisco bay area where he worked at KQED and taught podcasting at the University of California Berkeley School of Journalism. Also to be carried nationally by NPR, the new show premieres on January 2 and will build on the enduring legacy of civil dialogue and analysis of the complex issues in the news.

Fall Athletics

The Eagles had one of the strongest fall seasons in recent history. Three teams won or tied their regular season Patriot League championships-volleyball, field hockey (tied), and men's soccer; and two teams (field hockey and volleyball) won their conference tournaments and advanced to play in the NCAA tournament. After beating 14th ranked Boston University to win the championship, our field hockey team beat Kent State in an NCAA play-in game and then fell to #1 ranked Duke. Natalie Konerth was named the Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year for the second straight season.

Volleyball went 15-1 in the Patriot League, hosted the league tournament and won its 14th championship in the 16 years AU has been in the PL. Head coach Barry Goldberg won his 700th career game in late October and the team advanced to NCAA Tournament play, losing to #12 ranked Michigan. Men's soccer earned the top seed and hosted the Patriot League Tournament, but lost to Colgate in a penalty-kick shootout after the game ended in a tie.

Sustainability

AU continues to earn acclaim for its ongoing efforts in sustainability. We were nominated for the People's Choice Award, and the DC area community voted to recognize AU for its sustainability commitment. The annual Sustainability Awards, managed by Department of Energy and the Environment, recognize outstanding businesses and organizations for their environmental stewardship, innovative best practices, pollution prevention, and resource conservation. AU ranked #5 nationally (among doctoral institutions) on the list of "Top Performing Institutions for Sustainability, 2016. " This campus index is published by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, which recognizes colleges and universities on 17 distinct aspects of sustainability.

Notable Achievements

Recent achievements of note include:

  • Kogod School of Business - Bloomberg Businessweek's latest ranking of Full-Time MBA programs (released November 16), ranked the Kogod School of Business' full-time MBA program as #43 in the nation - a 15-place increase from 2015.
  • Washington College of Law - Dean Camille Nelson was recently named to the Executive Committee of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and the Governing Council of the ABA Center on Innovation.
  • School of Education - Dean Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy and colleagues hosted the 5th Annual White House "Reach Higher" initiative, October 28 to 30. The focus was "Connecting the Dots: Cultural Competence, Counseling, and College and Career Readiness of Under-Served Youth. "
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I wish everyone the best for a successful conclusion to the semester and a safe, enjoyable holiday.

President's Council on Diversity & Inclusion

President's Council on Diversity & Inclusion (PCDI)

The President's Council on Diversity and Inclusion was convened in 2016 and is charged with monitoring and reporting progress on elements of the Diversity and Inclusion Plan, which was drafted in February 2016 and reaffirmed in April 2016.

More on the Council