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How our community can become a model of respect for all

To the University Community:

Welcome back to a new semester and a new chapter for the University of Rochester.We are entering a period of change and transition, but I believe we can draw strength from our shared commitment to the ideal of “Meliora.”

I imagine that the events of the past week—the public release of the Report of the Independent Investigation and President Seligman’s earlier decision to step down effective February 28—have left you with questions and some uncertainty about where we go from here as a community. When I stepped down from my position as dean of the College last summer, I returned to my research and writing in philosophy and began planning for some new courses that I thought I would teach next year. The turn of events that led to my appointment as interim President was certainly unexpected for both my wife Andrea and me. But it is a great honor for me to serve in this capacity, and I am eager to do what I can to help the University thrive until a permanent President can be identified.

I am hopeful that our community can begin a period of healing and rebuilding. The University of Rochester has an opportunity to be a model for other institutions, not just in the letter of our policies and procedures but in the spirit of our actions, measured by our respect for each other and our differences in a campus community that is safe and inclusive for all. My belief in the importance of such a vision has particular meaning this week as we celebrate the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During my four decades here at the University as a member of the faculty and, in more recent years also in the administration, I have had the opportunity to teach amazing students, to work with extraordinary faculty and staff colleagues, and to lead the College. I’m immensely grateful for the experiences the University has provided me, and I am eager now to help steer us through our current situation. I don’t claim to have all the answers to the issues before us, but I will approach my new position with the same enthusiasm and collaborative spirit I had as dean.

The University Board of Trustees has asked me to begin work immediately on the University’s response to the recommendations in the Report of the Independent Investigation. You can read the Board’s statement, released immediately after President Seligman’s announcement of his intention to resign on February 28 and the publication of the Report, here. I have already begun that process and will be meeting this week with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the Commission on Women and Gender Equity in Academia, and others to discuss our next steps. I expect that a detailed plan of action will be developed and made public shortly. I am committed to making deliberations as open and inclusive as I possibly can. The challenges before us are significant, but our strength and talent run deep. I have been heartened by the outpouring of messages from many dedicated and caring people who are eager to help in this next chapter. Please know how grateful I am for your expressions of support and encouragement. I look forward to drawing on that strength and support and remain eager to hear your thoughts.

There is much work to be done in the days ahead, and I will work with Joel Seligman to ensure a smooth transition. I’m grateful to Joel for the leadership he has provided and for the generosity with which he is approaching this transition.

Responding to the recommendations in the Report will be my highest priority, and I intend for University business to continue as usual. The teaching, learning, research, performance, and patient care that form the core of our University mission must continue unimpeded and with the same spirit and commitment our community has always demonstrated. I’m confident that with the collective effort of all of you—students, faculty, staff, as well as alumni, parents, and other key constituent groups—the University will emerge from this difficult period even stronger.

I wish you an enjoyable and fulfilling spring semester. I look forward to working with you to make this University ever better.

Richard Feldman
Interim President Designate
University of Rochester