The below message was sent on Aug. 8, 2018
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Earlier today the Board of Trustees shared with the community its decision about the naming of the College’s original library, the M. Carey Thomas Award, and the Thomas essay prizes. I want to share my appreciation for the Board’s strong commitment to the values of inclusion and equity in carrying out Bryn Mawr’s educational mission and for the principles the Board brought to bear in considering how the College will recognize M. Carey Thomas and her legacies. The Board’s statement shares common ground with proposals made by the History Working Group and recognizes the range and impacts of Thomas’ achievements, service, and values.
The Board’s statement urges the College to explore its histories more fully and to share a more complex story of our past and its legacies. In the fall, I will work with the campus to create two groups to begin the process of engaging our histories and telling our stories. One group will be charged with launching an ongoing project of collecting and telling these histories and will coordinate with work already under way. The other group will be tasked with developing a plan for supporting and sustaining these efforts to portray Bryn Mawr’s histories. Many projects to record and reflect on our histories will be led by students with support from faculty and/or staff, often as part of the academic experience, and the second group will help us determine that we have the infrastructure and resources to support, sustain, share, and preserve these important initiatives. I will ask that these groups work collaboratively with the campus offices that will support their ideas and that they regularly share their findings with me to help ensure that their plans are integrated with other campus projects and initiatives. I will send further details about these groups when the academic year begins.
The Board’s statement also offers strong support for the College’s continued work to advance inclusion and equity for all students, faculty, and staff as central to our values and our mission. Over the past four years, many members of the community—administration, students, faculty, and staff—have worked to build a more diverse and inclusive campus community at Bryn Mawr. Many of our most recent initiatives are described in the 2017-2018 Diversity and Inclusion Annual Report. This work is critically important to the success of the College.
While we have made significant progress and while I am grateful for the efforts of many people across the community, we still have much work to do. The Board’s report asks us to focus on our commitment to understand and act upon the values of inclusion and equity. Achieving this goal will require ongoing action into the future and engagement by the entire campus. I look forward to working with all of you during the coming year to gather ideas and to pilot projects as we continue to work together to build a more equitable campus community.
As part of our ongoing work to increase understanding, address bias, and build inclusion and equity, I am happy to share news about commitments for 2018-2019 that the College and the Board have made since the end of the semester.
- Campus Climate. On November 16, the College will host Lee Mun Wah, the director of Stir Fry Seminars, to lead discussions involving faculty, students, and staff on cross-cultural communication and classroom/campus climate. This is a joint program offered in collaboration with Haverford, Swarthmore, and the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. Activities to build on this event are being developed for the second semester.
- Faculty Diversity. The Provost’s Office will host a visit on October 12 by CITE (Cornell Interactive Theater) for members of search committees and faculty representatives from each academic department to help identify structural barriers to inclusion and equity in the search process. This Bi-Co program (Haverford will host a similar program on October 11) continues work that search committee chairs began in the spring semester. In addition, the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts, of which we are a member, has received a two-year grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation to offer programming across the 11 consortial colleges to improve our ability to hire and retain faculty members from under-represented groups.
- Investments in Residential Life. A new major grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts will allow the College to hire two resident coordinators whose work will focus on community development and building belonging in dormitories and across campus. One of these will serve as an advisor in the Enid Cook ’31 Center.
- Pensby Center.Our grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts will also provide multi-year support for expanded staffing for the Pensby Center, allowing us to make the program assistant position full-time. It will take some time to be at full staffing in the Pensby Center given the need to search for a new Pensby director and a new program assistant. The director search will begin as soon as we return to campus so as to involve students in the process. Dean Walters is working to create interim staffing during the search process.
Some of the commitments we will take on will require new sources of funding. The Alumnae Relations and Development Office (ARD) staff and I have been working with donors to obtain support for our efforts. I am very pleased to announce that several members of the Board of Trustees, one an emeritus trustee, have stepped forward to make gifts to the College to support student access and equity. These gifts include a new endowed scholarship fund to support students from under-represented communities, a new Dean’s Fund for Diversity and Inclusion, and a Dean’s Emergency Fund. I am grateful that these donors have recognized our early work and this important need of the College with their philanthropy. Bob Miller, the ARD team, and I will build upon these seed gifts with fundraising focused on inclusion and equity initiatives.
While the discussions of the past year have at times been painful, and while they have surfaced disagreements about how we address a past marked by racism and anti-Semitism, they have also affirmed the College’s deep commitment to building a more inclusive Bryn Mawr. I am proud to join all of you in the positive and important work ahead.
With best wishes,
Kimberly Wright Cassidy
President, Bryn Mawr College