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Board of Trustees Meeting, June 5, 2020


Dear SCU Community:

The Board of Trustees met yesterday for their spring meeting, its first full board meeting conducted by Zoom.

As we do at every meeting, we opened with a prayer led by trustee Matt Carnes, S.J. (see attached). His prayer set the tone for our meeting as we reflected on the death of George Floyd and the systemic racial injustice his death and many others have revealed. In prayer, we recognized how we must work to remedy the injustices we witness.

Father O'Brien began his President's report by discussing the student petition submitted by the Igwebuike student leaders. He described the constructive and collaborative meetings that he and others have had with student leaders over the last week. The petition's demands are consistent with the University’s goals moving forward. Following up on the petition, Father O'Brien announced that he will meet with the Chief of the City of Santa Clara Police Department next week, and that student leaders, joined by Phil Beltran, Director of Campus Safety, will also soon meet with the chief in a separate meeting. The Board endorsed the administration's plan to address the substance of the petition, including concerns about transparency, accountability, training, and bias incident reporting protocols.

Much of the meeting was dedicated to an update by members of the COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery Working Group. Group leaders and others provided a summary of the work under way in teaching and learning (Lisa Kloppenberg), operations (Chris Shay), legal matters (Bridget Colbert), enrollment (Mike Sexton), and finances (John Ottoboni and Michael Crowley).

The co-directors of the Faculty Collaborative for Teaching Innovation, Eileen Razzari Elrod, Nancy Cutler and Chris Bachen, gave the trustees an overview of the early experience of remote learning after instruction went fully online in March.

Following their presentation, Jim Lyons and trustee Jeff Miller reported on the status of the comprehensive campaign, which has slowed in the wake of the pandemic’s impact. The Board endorsed the decision to focus on three key fundraising priorities over the next two years: student access and affordability, faculty investment, and completion of the Sobrato Center for Discovery and Innovation.

Father O’Brien thanked the board members for their contributions to the Heritage Fund, a special fund set up to augment next year’s financial aid budget because of the pandemic’s financial impact on families. Thus far, the trustees have raised nearly $3 million for the fund to assist students and their families.

Several committee chairs provided reports on their respective committees’ work, including John M. Sobrato (Executive), Matt Carnes, S.J. (Academic Affairs), Steve Sordello (Audit), John A. Sobrato (Facilities Master Planning), Jack Lewis (Finance), and Tim Haley (Governance and Nominating).

The Board approved three new trustees: Molly Joseph ‘96, Gisel Ruiz ‘92, and Kathleen Duncan.

The presidents of the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and Associated Student Government (ASG) gave reports as well. ASG president Sahil Sagar highlighted the pressing issues for students. Mr. Floyd’s death has reverberated deeply on campus and students are asking for concrete action plans to support Black students and greater emphasis on diversity and inclusion. Ciara Moezidis, incoming ASG president, introduced herself and summarized her three priorities for next year: Black students’ needs, alignment of new Title IX regulations with Jesuit values, and meeting student needs as we plan for next year.

Jane Curry, president of the Faculty Senate Council, summarized some of the positive experiences of the last quarter, including the establishment of the emergency fund for faculty and staff, and generous faculty engagement in the move to online instruction. Some concerns she raised included health and safety of students and faculty upon return to campus, the administration’s engagement with collaborative governance, increasing diversity, and student issues raised in the last week. At the end of her report, she introduced Leslie Gray, Faculty Senate President for 2020-2021.

Andrew Chai, president of the Staff Senate Council, explained how the staff has contributed to the University response to the pandemic, including supporting the faculty and staff emergency fund and the food pantry. He expressed that the chief concern among staff is job security in light of the financial impact of COVID-19. Following his remarks, Andrew introduced Kori Lennon, Staff Senate president for 2020-2021, who mentioned two priorities for next year: staff diversity and inclusion; and transparency, which she described as exceptional in recent months since the COVID-19 crisis. 

The final report came from Peter Morin, chair of the Board of Regents, who announced that the Regents are raising another $1M for student scholarships. In leadership changes, the Honorable Risë Pichon '73, J.D. '76, will become vice chair of the board in June 2020 and will assume the role of chair in June 2021. Judge Pichon, along with Joanne Hayes-White ‘86, retired Fire Chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, recently received honorary degrees at our honorary degree ceremony on Thursday in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. 

As I noted in the beginning of this letter, our Board met in the context of a national and campus-wide conversation about anti-Black racism and protests against racial injustice. I am personally committed to ensuring that administrative leadership of the University and the Board of Trustees take concrete actions to further promote diversity and inclusion and to make Santa Clara a more welcoming community for all people of color, particularly our Black students, faculty, and staff because Black lives matter to us.


John M. Sobrato '83
Chair, SCU Board of Trustees


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