Dear Members of the Saint Vincent College Community,
Over the days leading up to the solemn celebration of Easter, our community faced a significant challenge when a presenter at a college-sponsored lecture gave remarks inconsistent with the fundamental Mission of our College. Our mission centers around the inherent belief that only when we lift up human dignity can we move the world forward. I’m writing to you today to inform you of the immediate actions we are taking to rebuild trust, heal our community and protect the diversity of opinion critical to our students’ educational growth.
The speaker’s remarks contravened our core principles and did a disservice to Fred Rogers, for whom the building in which the speech was given was named. Rightfully, many in our community, particularly our students, were deeply upset by these remarks. I affirm the April 10th statement of Dr. Gary Quinlivan, Dean of the McKenna School, who denounced this lecture. I also denounce this lecture and I am sorry that this happened at Saint Vincent. The tenets of Academic Freedom – academic rigor and reasoned analysis - are treasured here. Faculty and students are encouraged to explore, discuss and responsibly debate topics and be inspired to search for truth in our classrooms, and on our campus. Our community, however, will not allow the platform of our College to be used to promote a message contrary to our mission.
I am grateful to the many students, faculty, alumni and friends who have contacted our leadership and me with great passion, care and concern. I was particularly heartened after speaking with disappointed students who related that the content of this lecture does not match their experience at Saint Vincent College. I will continue to listen as we work to improve our policies. The steps we are taking today are intended to do two things. First, we want to make sure we invite a diversity of responsible opinion on a variety of topics important to our students’ educational process. Second, we must restore our students’ and stakeholders’ trust that while this content will be robustly presented in future programs, no message that contravenes the core values expressed above will be allowed. Those immediate steps include:
The forum will be held on Friday, April 22 at 10:00 a.m. in the Carey Center gymnasium. In addition, my leadership team and I will be holding virtual listening sessions to engage our faculty, alumni and donor communities over the course of the next several weeks.
The Mission of Saint Vincent College holds in the highest regard the inherent dignity and sanctity of all, and the good each of us can bring to a world desperately in need of healing, justice and compassion. Today, we walk this walk. Building something durable and true requires discipline in holding our institution accountable. Stability is one of the 10 hallmarks of Benedictine education. This challenge has tested our community. With these positive steps, our College community will be stronger and sturdier than yesterday.
As our students return to our campus after this Easter break, we pray for renewed hope in the new life which is Christ.
God bless you,