Jan 18, 2017

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Happy New Year! And welcome back to campus and the spring semester. I hope your holidays were restful, peaceful and joyful.

Today I am announcing the creation of the President’s Advisory Council for a Respectful, Inclusive Community. As we prepare our vision for the future — Strategic Plan 2022 — it is important for our community to be aware of the values that have guided our past, assess how well we are currently honoring those values, and ask how we might improve upon our efforts in the future.

The advisory council will be modeled on the Holy Cross Initiatives Team (HCIT), which has been led by members of Student Affairs and Campus Ministry, and is nationally recognized for creating programs that explore the intersection of our Holy Cross mission and the student experience. Father Peter Walsh, CSC, director of Campus Ministry, will chair the advisory council, which will include students, faculty and staff. The advisory council will assess our campus climate and make recommendations to me about how the university can better serve our diverse community.

Diversity has always been a fundamental principle embodied in the university’s Holy Cross mission, which has guided the university throughout its history and can be traced back to the exhortations of the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Blessed Father Basil Moreau, CSC. When he established the foundational principles of Holy Cross education, he implored us never to educate the mind at the expense of the heart and emphasized that education was to be employed in the cause of social justice in order to make the world a better place.

These fundamental principles explain much of the history of St. Edward’s and our commitment to diversity; our outreach and welcome to students of all religions, races, ethnic groups, genders, sexual orientations and economic backgrounds; and our embrace of all members of our university community as creatures of God, to be valued and respected. Indeed, our embrace of all members of our community is a mindful, intentional demonstration that in our daily endeavors we heed the biblical obligation to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Essential to educating the minds of students is a diversity of people and experiences that challenge them with different, even contrary viewpoints. We seek to rouse students from passive, comfortable thinking and expand their perspectives through exposure to new, sometimes startling ideas. These learning experiences train, inform and sharpen the mind, preparing it for a lifetime of identifying, exploring and analyzing problems yet to be encountered and solved.

Diversity is also fundamental to educating the heart. And educating the heart is what helps students to assimilate Father Moreau’s moral devotion to social justice, which is the ultimate purpose of education for all Holy Cross educators. By learning with their hearts to respect, value and love others — even those different from one’s self — students learn that all people are equally entitled to fairness, kindness and justice. They also learn that education is about more than learning, intellectual growth and preparation for vocation. It is about understanding one’s role in advancing the cause of social justice in the world.

At St. Edward’s, education takes place both in the classroom and in co-curricular programs. I will ask the advisory council to explore all programs that might impact our efforts to create a respectful, inclusive community.

I hope to announce during the first week of February the full roster of students, faculty and staff who have agreed to serve on the council. At that time, I will also share some additional details on the advisory council’s timetable and goals for the spring semester. Meanwhile, there are several opportunities already planned that might be of interest to you, including “Fusion Discussion: The Presidential Inauguration and Tribal Politics,” sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Leadership; “Red Bench: Interfaith Dialogues that Matter,” sponsored by Campus Ministry; and The Change Maker newsletter about events on campus and in Austin.

I wish you all a productive and successful spring semester. 

George E. Martin, PhD

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