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A Message from President Cassidy on the 2023-24 Academic Year

June 21, 2024

The below message was sent to the Bryn Mawr Community on June 21, 2024.

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
I write to provide some closure to the Academic Year by sharing some additional thoughts and ideas that have emerged as I have continued in dialogue with campus community members --- students, parents, faculty, staff, alumnae/i and Trustees ---surrounding the College’s response to the continuing loss of life, destruction, dislocation, and suffering in Gaza and the terrible events of October 7 and their ongoing impact in Israel. I have been in touch with President-Elect Cadge regarding this dialogue as part of our transition, and we will all look to her leadership to continue to shape the path forward.
Commitment to Learning and Education
This year, one area of deep pride for the campus was the commitment of so many individuals and groups to ongoing learning and education. I hope that we will continue to center education as a way both to understand the history and significance of current events and to understand and engage with the various perspectives that we hold about them. In addition, many groups and individuals have asked the College to consider a more concerted focus on the discussion of antisemitism and Islamophobia, perhaps initially as part of our first-year programming.
Connected to our commitment to educational access, over the past few years we have looked to partner with organizations and leveraged individual connections to provide access to Bryn Mawr for scholars and students affected by humanitarian crises. I am mindful that the war in Gaza has caused the destruction of universities and other educational institutions, eliminating access to education for Palestinian students. As a result, we are actively searching for partners to support our efforts to matriculate students affected. To provide needed services that are not offered by the College, we are continuing to strengthen our connection to the Nationalities Service Center in Philadelphia. 
Bryn Mawr, it should be noted, is unusual among higher education institutions in that we meet the full demonstrated financial aid needs of international students. This means that we do not need to set up special scholarships to support international students and will be able to support the full demonstrated financial need of any admitted students from Gaza.
Student Activism, Free Expression, Self-Governance and the Honor Code
As an academic community, we are committed to principles of academic freedom and expression, in the context of mutual trust, respect, and care. There is broad agreement among administrators, staff, students, and faculty that we need continued conversations about how to realize these principles and how, as a community, to work with the tensions that sometimes arise among these principles. I hope that our campus will continue to engage with the question of how to respect the moral convictions motivating student activism and protect students' freedom of expression, while at the same time protecting and respecting students' unimpeded access to educational and residential programming on campus as well as the work of sustaining its infrastructure. As the campus welcomes a president who is new to Bryn Mawr’s Honor Code, it is an ideal moment to review and affirm our community’s principles and to explore how these principles are best engaged by all community members in policy and practice. An inclusive, respectful and multi-perspectival conversation will allow the community to strengthen its commitment to and trust in this core aspect of our identity.
It is important to note, and to celebrate that SGA held their first in-person plenary in five years (see summary of spring plenary resolutions). This was particularly impressive given that none of the SGA leadership had ever attended an in-person plenary due to concerns related to COVID-19. Going forward it will be important to continue to think about how inclusiveness is experienced in self-governance by all students. 
Creating a Sense of Belonging and Well-Being
Centering student support and well-being is core to the mission of the College. The Impact Center and the Dean’s Office, in partnership with our religious and spiritual advisors, will continue to foster communities of care for our students and provide guidance on ways to support student learning and a sense of belonging.
In my conversations with students in reflection on the year, some have shared that they experienced a meaningful sense of shared purpose and hope in building community with peers via activism and other modes of response, reflection, and support for one another. Going forward, I hope this effort toward greater inclusivity at Bryn Mawr can be broadened as we continue to find ways in which the College can foster in all students a sense of belonging based on a sincere commitment to a pluralistic, multi-perspective campus community as well as to students' self-chosen communities within the campus --- one that always includes respect and care for one another’s humanity.
Understanding Bryn Mawr’s Endowment
Many members of the campus community are interested in learning more about the investment of the College’s endowment, and in sharing perspectives about values and commitments they hope the College will consider in making investment choices. The Board of Trustees, as well as the Investment Office professionals, share a commitment to and actively engage in investment strategies for socially responsible investment. To continue the process of exploring these perspectives, a group of Trustees will devote time around the October board meeting to meet in a facilitated session with members of the campus community. This conversation will also enable exploration of different ways that the campus can remain engaged going forward.
Further Paths of Support and Advocacy
I am grateful to all of the students, faculty, staff and administrators who are working to support populations affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis. I hope that we will continue to look for paths of direct action in the affected region. For example, students raised over $3,000 to support relief efforts in Gaza. The College will continue to pursue pathways to Bryn Mawr for displaced scholars and students. I also encourage students to reach out directly to their elected officials to share their views and advocate for the policy changes they would like to see. Students represent a significant constituency of voters, and elected officials take seriously the influence of voters in their districts.
Final Reflections
This year was difficult, yet it also provided opportunities for growth and learning. As the College moves forward, I hope we will create additional opportunities for mutual learning in respectful ways. In support of this hopeful goal, I point to the success of The Dialogue Project in continuing to develop the capacity of students, faculty and staff to engage each other in productive exchange and to use these skills in their campus interactions. I also note that Dean Burrell-McRae has engaged the International Institute for Restorative Practice this summer and for next academic year to conduct training in restorative practices for students, faculty, and staff. The aim is to create greater campus capacity for restorative approaches when issues arise.
Finally, many of the conversations that fostered collaboration toward shared goals this spring were facilitated by Alice Lesnick, Jeremy Elkins and Alison Cook-Sather. I am grateful for their professional skills that enabled movement and for the care with which they engaged this work. One takeaway from this year, for those of us involved, was the power of these facilitated conversations. My hope is that members of the community can engage this skillful support in a more proactive way to address issues as they emerge, rather than only when they come to a crisis or impasse.
I look forward to seeing the ways in which, under President-Elect Cadge’s leadership, the campus will continue to grow and learn in the coming years.

Kim Cassidy

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