Engh talks Unity Four, meningitis and graduation rate
Jenni Sigl, Nicolas Sonnenburg
THE SANTA CLARA
February 18, 2016
At the annual state of the university address, President Fr. Michael Engh, S.J., announced to the Santa Clara community that the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve both women’s and gender studies and ethnic studies as standalone majors.
Engh also announced the creation of a “special blue ribbon commission on diversity and inclusion,” to create a report that he expects to be finished by September 2016.
“For Catholic universities, a commitment to diversity is not an option,” Engh said. “It needs to be a key feature of their very identity.”
Diversity and inclusion were key themes in his 35 minute address to the audience gathered in Mayer Theatre.
Engh referenced the Yik Yak incident last May, in which racist comments were made about the black community, that led to the creation of the student movement Unity 4 and the resulting meetings with university administration.
He described the administration’s encounters with the group as “positive and constructive,” adding that the experiences of Santa Clara students of color are part of a broader, national issue concerning race relations.
“Justice and reconciliation advance our renewed promotion of cultural diversity, inclusion and service for the good of society,” Engh said.
While speaking about the creation of the diversity and inclusion committee, Engh referenced the fifth goal of the Santa Clara 2020 Strategic Plan, which calls for increased diversity, affordability and accessibility. He said that the group of twelve alumni, civic leaders and faculty will hold their first meeting later this month. Senior assistant provost for strategic initiatives and provost’s office relations Lisa Millora will staff the commission and hire a third-party consulting firm to be a part of the process.
Engh began his talk with updates on other parts of the university—including the new art and art history building, the climate change conference held on campus in November and the hiring of new deans for financial aid services and of the School of Education and Counseling Psychology.
In a tender moment, Engh remembered longtime mathematics professor Jean Pedersen, who taught at Santa Clara from her appointment in 1972 until her death earlier this year.
Engh also used the time to tout the university’s laurels, citing an 85 percent four-year graduation rate, and the popularity of “SCU Momentum,” a video narrated by star basketball star, Jared Brownridge, about the future of Santa Clara and the celebration of three professors who have taught at Santa Clara for fifty years.
Associate Student Government President Aaron Poor preceded Engh with an address of his own, speaking specifically about student concerns.
Poor also recognized Unity Four’s efforts and said he appreciated the movement’s willingness to work with student government, rather than merely lobbying a host of empty complaints.
However, much of his address focused on the need for students to use university resources to the fullest potential and to create a more united student body.
“I’m reminded of the African proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,’” Poor said. “So how can we go together? The first step is to define the needs of the groups we are working with.”
Poor urged students to use alumni networks as a way to create a stronger university community.
Invoking President Kennedy’s famous “We choose to go to the moon…not because (it is) easy, but because (it is) hard” quotation, Poor encouraged students to utilize campus resources like Ruff Riders and the Center for Sustainability and to engage with ASG.
“See how you can become more ‘with’ SCU,” Poor said. “Not ‘at’ SCU.”
Engh closed the night’s events, using the recent meningitis outbreak to express his appreciation for the dedication of the campus community.
According to Engh, over 100 members of the university community volunteered, contributing over 500 hours of time to help vaccinate nearly 5,000 students.
“When I got the phone call that said we had 100 volunteers, I have to say, my eyes really filled up with tears,” Engh said. “I’m very grateful…I’m very, very proud of Santa Clara. I’m very, very proud of all of you.”
Contact Jenni Sigl at firstname.lastname@example.org and Nicolas Sonnenburg at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.