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Input from University community is key to defining ‘core values’

To the University Community:

In my message to the community earlier this week, I promised prompt action and as much transparency as I can provide as we develop our responses to the Report of the Independent Investigation and examine our related policies and practices. In that spirit, I am writing now to share with you my initial impressions.

My thinking reflects the thoughtful input of many groups within the University community that have met with me as part of an ongoing listening tour. My goal is for the University to implement changes promptly, but I think it’s essential to begin by consulting widely and listening carefully to our campus’ many viewpoints. I have met or have meetings planned with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the Faculty Senate co-chairs, the Commission on Women and Gender Equity in Academia, the Presidential Diversity Council, the University Management Team, staff groups, and student leadership groups. Many other discussions will follow. I plan to establish quickly a clear and collaborative process for vetting and prioritizing the many ideas generated from these conversations and reports.

In order to promote a transparent campus dialogue, I will within a few days announce a website that is being created to outline both the recommendations of the Report and other climate-related issues under review. It will be updated regularly to show progress and will include timelines for completion of key steps – but I want to underscore that there is more to the process of moving forward than a series of operational steps. If we want to change aspects of our culture, we need to unite as a community and decide what we stand for. The process will require more than rewriting policies and creating new positions.

I am sensitive to many comments expressing frustration with the outcome of the Report – in particular, the distinction that conclusions were legal and based on governing laws and policies, but not moral or social judgments. Many different community members have shared their views that adherence to law and formal policy is not sufficient, and that our community needs to hold its members accountable to higher standards. I agree. To do so, we need to carefully define and articulate the community values that determine those standards.

A faculty, student, and staff subcommittee of the Presidential Diversity Council and its Implementation Committee recently drafted a revised Vision Statement for the University that includes a new section expressing the University’s core values. The subcommittee is refining that draft and, once revised, it will be circulated widely for comment. A version that reflects the input from all corners of our community will ultimately be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval.

My expectation is that the values expressed in the Vision Statement will help guide revisions in University policies in ways that make it clear that the University does not condone behavior that fails to adhere to our mutually understood values. As I said earlier this week, the University of Rochester has an opportunity to be a model of respect and inclusivity for other institutions.

I have learned a lot in the past week as a result of the numerous initial conversations I have had. I look forward to meeting with many more of you in the coming weeks. Your engagement will be essential to implementing meaningful change and allowing us to live up to our Meliora motto.

Richard Feldman
Interim President Designate