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Fall 2020 Trustees Meeting


Dear Members of the University Community, 

Last week on October 15-16, the Board of Trustees held our Fall Retreat and business meeting. Over the two days, we held rich discussions with invited guests and members of the University community on diversity, equity and inclusion, the future of higher education, and the financial impact of Covid-19 on higher education and Santa Clara University.

To follow up on my commitment expressed in June following our Spring Trustees meeting, this meeting was an in-depth learning opportunity to identify take-away actions for the board to pursue to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. I am grateful to our discussion facilitator Margaret Russell, Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, and our three panelists from the campus community who spoke about their lived experiences as people of color. Joanna Thompson, Director of the Office for Multicultural Learning, Robin Nelson, Associate Professor in Anthropology, and Ifeanyi Ifediba from the Class of 2022 shared their stories, insights and suggestions. Following the panel, guest speaker Karen Boykin-Towns, vice chair of the NAACP National Board of Directors, guided conversation on what she has seen at other colleges and universities. She encouraged Santa Clara to take bold action to build on the administration’s commitment to be an anti-racist institution.

As a board we agreed that there are concrete actions that we can identify in order to better live out that commitment. Immediately following the meeting, Fr. O'Brien and I convened an ad hoc committee tasked with proposing measurable objectives for the Board of Trustees to advance diversity, equity and inclusion at the board level. The proposals will be discussed for potential adoption at our next meeting in February. Members of the committee include Trustees Tim Haley (chair), Fr. Erick Berrelleza, S.J., Elizabeth Connelly, Bill Duffy, Ronnie Lott, Gisel Ruiz, and Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Margaret Russell.  Either I or Vice Chair Larry Sonsini will also participate in the committee meetings. 

Following our discussion on diversity, equity, and inclusion, we welcomed three distinguished leaders in higher education in a conversation: Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of Stanford University, Carol Christ, chancellor of University of California-Berkeley, and Janet Napolitano ‘79, former president of the University of California. Throughout the pandemic, leaders of colleges and universities in the Bay Area, including Fr. O’Brien and our guest speakers, have been meeting to collaborate with each other and respond to the myriad county and state decisions affecting higher education. The panel shared views on what they learned about higher education during the pandemic and what their institutions have done to be more anti-racist, inclusive, diverse, and equitable.  

For our third discussion topic, KPMG representative Mark Thomas briefed the trustees on the financial landscape in higher education resulting from the pandemic. He noted several headwinds including economic disruption, intensifying competition, and digital disruption, and posed several realities that will help higher education leaders reconsider the business model. John Ottoboni, chief operating officer, John Kerrigan, chief investment officer, and Michael Crowley, vice president for finance and administration, also gave an overview of the financial impact of the pandemic on Santa Clara University.

During our business meeting on Friday, several action items were presented by various committee chairs and all were approved by the board:

  • Acceptance of the Audit Report;
  • Approval of the charge of the new Mission Committee of the Board of Trustees; and
  • Approval of the Revised Investment Policy Statement.

In his President’s Report to the board, Fr. O’Brien announced that the Superior General of the Jesuits, Arturo Sosa, S.J., recently reaffirmed our Jesuit, Catholic identity after reviewing the Mission Priority Examen process that took place last year along with the final report of the visiting team and the self-study. Fr. O'Brien also reported that the vice president for mission and ministry, when hired, will work to implement the recommendations of the report. Other highlights of Fr. O’Brien’s report included the WASC visit and the visiting team’s favorable report and recommendations. Fr. O’Brien also briefed trustees on plans for the winter quarter and the postponement of fall sports until winter and spring.

We moved reports from the Board of Regents, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and the Associated Student Government (ASG) to the beginning of our meeting to better incorporate their input into our subsequent discussions. Peter Morin, chair of the Board of Regents, reported that the regents are looking to build a strong board by creating a pipeline program for greater diversity among its members. Additionally, at their next meeting, the regents will consider how best to prepare SCU students for a post-Covid world.

Leslie Gray, president of the Faculty Senate, shared some of their work in progress, including their efforts to support the Black Excellence Scholarship Fund, plans for an in-house vote for lecturers, a resolution regarding the budget, and the faculty and staff Covid Emergency Fund and other initiatives to offer more support for caregivers.

Joanna Thompson, president of the Staff Senate, reported on key activities of the group including its focus on collaborative governance, continuation of staff town halls as a way to create a bridge between staff and administration, establishment of a staff Anti-Racist Working Group, support for the Black Excellence Scholarship Fund, and support for staff as we address financial uncertainty on campus.

ASG president Ciara Moezidis provided updates on some of ASG’s work on racial justice, support for Bon Appetit workers, and engagement with student leaders at other AJCU institutions regarding their involvement with governing boards.

On behalf of the trustees, I want to thank the members of the University community who participated in our panels and discussions, and collaborative governance representatives for their reports. The sessions were informative while also challenging us to stretch our thinking and to take concrete actions to advance our mission.



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

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