Engh announces commencement speakers in address
The Santa Clara
February 22, 2017
This year’s state of the university address did not shy away from controversial topics.
University President Father Michael Engh, S.J. and Associated Student Government President Lidia Diaz-Fong spoke about national political tension, the university’s financial challenges and the Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.
On the afternoon of Feb. 15, the two addressed a full Mayer Theatre—the crowd consisting of students and staff alike.
“Our country is experiencing more disruption and division than any time I can remember since the Vietnam War,” Engh said. “Rhetoric is more heated, voices are louder, trust in our fellow Americans is lower and fear for the country’s future is more prevalent.”
Engh spoke about the Blue Ribbon Commission’s final report, which began integration into the collaborative governance system on Feb. 14. The report looks at addressing race and ethnicity issues within the Santa Clara community.
“I am very grateful to these commissioners for accepting my invitation to examine the issues of race and ethnicity at Santa Clara,” Engh said.
He asked the commissioners to provide suggestions for how to make Santa Clara more diverse and more inclusive and he got an answer after six months. These suggestions are grouped into seven areas: leadership, strategic planning and restructuring, student recruitment and admissions, campus support systems and learning opportunities, faculty recruitment and hiring, faculty and staff training and development and the use of data evidence. Engh said he will release a detailed report of the findings in June.
Financially, Santa Clara has hit a few speed bumps in the last year. Engh spoke about the 2016 operating budget, which ended up being more problematic than anticipated.
There was an operating loss of $4.5 million within the 2016 fiscal year, marking the first loss Santa Clara has had in over 20 years. Engh said that in order to ensure this would not happen again, widespread budget cuts were made so that Santa Clara’s expenses would not again exceed its income.
He said that to simply upgrade the current PeopleSoft system, Santa Clara’s enterprise resource program software, the university would have to spend $12.6 million over a span of three years.
“We need to engage in brainstorming and creative thinking to identify new sources of income,” Engh said.
Engh also gave a nod to John and Susan Sobrato who recently gave the second largest gift in the history of American Catholic education—a $100 million gift for a new STEM facility to be named the Sobrato Campus for Discovery and Innovation.
Diaz-Fong focused in on the Santa Clara community, highlighting incidents that occurred on campus. She spoke about the Casa Italiana Residence Hall blood swastika incident during the fall and the Identity Evropa posters found around campus earlier this quarter.
“For those of us that are in our second or third or fourth years at Santa Clara, these events directly impacted our sense of community that we have built here,” Diaz-Fong said. “Our hard work over the past three years was torn down.”
With rising tensions and the emergence of white supremacists’ intimidation attempts found in the Casa Italiana and Identity Evropa instances, Diaz-Fong said these matters demanded a critical response.
“As we continue to see these changes in our national climate, Santa Clara University must respond to these changes,” she said. “We must look deep into our founding values and actively examine our tradition.”
Diaz-Fong said that the setbacks that have occurred in the past years such as the Casa Italiana incident and the Identity Evropa incident are what help members of the Santa Clara community realize that the state of the student body is strong.
Engh announced this year’s commencement speakers and recipients of honorary degrees. Leon Panetta, a Santa Clara alumnus, former congressman, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former secretary of defense will provide the keynote address for the School of Law.
Another alumnus, Bishop Robert McElroy, will speak at the Jesuit School of Theology’s graduation ceremony. Mike and Mary Ellen Fox, dedicated Catholic philanthropists, will receive honorary degrees. Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J., director of Vatican Observatory, will also receive honorary degrees. The undergraduate commencement speech will be given by Juan Felipe Herrera, former U.S poet laureate.
In his final remarks, Engh focused on the positive and empowering aspects that he said can be extracted from the current political and social climate.
“This is where we strive for a brighter future,” Engh said. “We must be that model, that light, that example … because our country and our world needs Santa Clara.”
Contact Meghan McLaughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.