Update on campus conversations and action items

by President Steve Thorsett,


Dear Willamette Community,

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with the chairs of several key faculty committees, ASWU and other leaders in the Willamette community. I was humbled by the candor, passion and commitment of members of our community, and I reiterated my commitment to helping lead efforts for meaningful change at Willamette. I want to thank those who shared their experiences.

I want you to know that I share in the desire to make Willamette a welcoming and inclusive place. When I came here, it was because of the special love that I have for this University—it is a love that continues today.

I hear your concerns loud and clear – and you can expect action from me in the days, weeks and months ahead. I want to thank faculty leaders, ASWU President Becca Brownlee and the ASWU Senate for sharing their feedback. Most importantly, I want to share a few specific next steps that came out of these conversations:

  • Engaging students in the onboarding of the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and vice president of Campus Life. I am meeting with incoming ASWU president Liz Gill this week and will work with student representatives who served on the search committees for each of the positions to develop a plan for welcoming these two new members to our community this summer and to begin building more robust structures to engage students in university administration.
  • Expanding the scope of Administrative Council to become University Council. Before the next academic year I will work with ASWU leadership and faculty leadership to identify representatives to serve on a more comprehensive University Council to review and discuss important issues at Willamette.
  • Continuing the work of Willamette Academy and launching a search for a new Executive Director. I am committed to maintaining the funding for Willamette Academy for the next academic year and all current Willamette Academy students who meet the previously established Academy academic standards will be welcomed back. In addition, I will lead a committee charged with reviewing Academy needs and hiring and shaping the role of its new executive director. This committee will include: Danny Santos JD’86, associate dean of the College of Law; Annalivia Palazzo-Angulo ’99 MAT’00, executive director of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality; Kelley Strawn, associate professor of sociology; two members of the Board of Trustees; and both a current Willamette University student and an alum who have been engaged with the Academy. It is my hope that through the work of the committee we can begin the search for a permanent executive director very soon. Dean David Douglass will continue to oversee Academy operations through this academic year.
  • Finding new ways to interact with and include a broader group of students and faculty members in University administrative activities. I look forward to working with ASWU and faculty leadership to identify opportunities to include student and faculty voices in university decision-making - while also working together to make a more concerted effort to utilize student and faculty representatives already serving on important University committees and in staff and faculty searches.
  • Updating the Willamette community on progress. In collaboration with incoming ASWU president Liz Gill, we will update the community on the progress of these and other efforts through monthly communications in the Bearcat Bulletin over the summer months and into the next academic year.

We must all remember that important and difficult issues like these take time to address, but I look forward to working together to take these first steps to bring us together. Through this work, and in the necessary conversations that result, I am confident we will develop a shared vision for Willamette of which we can all be proud.

Non nobis solum nati sumus,

Willamette University

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