Dear Scripps College Community Members:
I hope that this message finds you rested after a break from school and work and refreshed by time spent with loved ones. Many who were unable to gather in person found creative and meaningful ways to nurture close relationships from afar, yet, I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to a time when we can enjoy face-to-face interactions again.
We begin the spring semester in a time of sustained uncertainty. The pandemic continues to take a devastating toll on families, communities, and our nation, and the recent insurrection at the US Capitol highlighted the fragility of democracy in this nation. The coming months will bring yet more change, and perhaps some hope, for our community and for our country at a time when many of us are feeling weary.
The Scripps community has navigated this exceedingly difficult time with compassion, creativity, and courage. Students, faculty, staff, alumnae, and trustees have come together to adapt classes to incorporate new pedagogical approaches and technologies, establish new antiracist programs and initiatives, connect with Claremont seniors, provide virtual career resources for students and alums, increase virtual health and wellness programming, explore new methods of conducting scientific processes, and more. Your resilience in the face of adversity gives me confidence in the future.
Spring Operational Plans
In December, I shared the bleak outlook for the public health environment in Los Angeles County and the Department of Public Health’s intention to maintain current orders prohibiting on-campus operations for higher education institutions. The number of positive COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to proliferate, placing California firmly in the epicenter of the pandemic with LA County among the hardest-hit regions nationwide. We had hoped and prepared for a return to on-campus operations in March. Last week, however, LA County health officials advised that plans to allow academic and residential life programs are on hold indefinitely, and that institutions on semester calendars should not expect students to return to residential life this spring.
Consistent with local and state directives and our commitment to protect the health and safety of our campus community and neighbors, Scripps will continue to operate remotely for the spring semester. I recognize and share the disappointment that many will feel as we relinquish our expectations of a limited return to campus this academic year. We understand that this news may affect the difficult decisions many students and families are making about enrollment plans. Therefore, the College is extending the deadline for a full refund until March 5, 2021. Scripps has developed a comprehensive plan for reopening campus, and the College is fully prepared to welcome students back to campus this fall.
The approval and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine offers us the promise of once again coming together in person and engaging in the learning and growth that is at the heart of a Scripps education in the fall. The Claremont Colleges Student Health Services department has submitted an application to CalVax to become a vaccination site with the hope that we are able to serve our communities by distributing the vaccine. County health officials have indicated that our faculty and staff will be eligible for the vaccine in Tier 1B along with other educators. Even though Tier 1B is the next group to gain access to the vaccine, it remains unclear when this tier will actually be activated due to the severe shortages of the vaccine in LA County.
The following College updates highlight the ways in which Scripps continues to provide opportunities for the foundational liberal arts values of academic inquiry, dialogue, and community-building in our current virtual landscape:
Racial Justice and Equity Initiatives
Events of the past year have spotlighted the persistent and destructive impact of systemic racism on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and prompted a national reckoning with the legacy of discrimination in our cultural, political, and economic institutions. Last summer, Scripps increased its efforts to eradicate structural inequality and build a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable community by launching a multifaceted anti-racism initiative.
Our efforts in this regard have been greatly facilitated by the Racial Justice and Equity Fund, catalyzed by a generous $1 million gift from Trustee Gale Picker P’14, P’19. New gifts have added more than $165,000 to the fund since the initiative was launched last fall. The fund augments resources for anti-racism initiatives, including scholarships, the Racial Justice and Equity Fellowship program, workshops, and climate assessment activities to help recruit, retain, and support BIPOC students, faculty, and staff. I am grateful to the many alumnae, families, trustees, and friends of the College who have provided philanthropic support for this and other key strategic priorities to advance equity, and I am happy to report on some of our progress over the past six months.
Racial Justice and Equity Fellowship Program
The College has introduced the Racial Justice and Equity Fellowship Program, which provides grants to faculty and students for research, internships, and community engagement projects designed to activate scholarship relevant to racial justice, inequality, equity, criminal justice reform, community engagement projects, and intersectional, interracial, and intraracial violence. Fellowship recipients will receive up to $4,000 in funding. The program will also fund a recently established summer 2021 research opportunity with the California African American Museum.
Associate Dean of Faculty for Racial Equity
Please join me in congratulating Professor Mary Hatcher-Skeers, Professor of Chemistry and Sidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Chair in Natural Sciences, on her appointment as Associate Dean of Faculty for Racial Equity (ADRE). Professor Hatcher-Skeers will play a critical role in the College’s commitment to antiracism and equity, responsible for identifying, articulating, and implementing antiracism and equity goals in the academic realm by providing guidance on recruitment and retention policies and practices. Professor Hatcher-Skeers will report to the Dean of Faculty, serve as a member of the Academic Affairs leadership team, and serve as a thought partner to the President, Dean of Students, Director of Scripps Communities of Resources Empowerment (SCORE), and Convener of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Initiative.
Native American and Indigenous Studies Minor
In November, the Faculty Executive Committee approved the creation of a Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) minor that aims to introduce students to topics related to Native Americans and Indigenous peoples from around the world, with special focus on settler colonialism, Indigenous history, contemporary communities, and Indigenous ways of thinking. Minors take courses from a variety of disciplines, including history, anthropology, art history, science, and ethnic studies, among others. The multidisciplinary nature of this course of study allows students to select this minor regardless of major. The minor will be available to all Scripps students effective fall 2021.
Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Workshops
Last semester, the IDEA Initiative and SCORE partnered with the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ) to present a Racial Justice Training series for students, faculty, and staff. CCEJ is an organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry, and racism through education, conflict resolution, and advocacy. CCEJ integrates anti-oppression education with experiential activities and dialogue. Workshops focused on Valuing Black Lives, Cultivating Values-Aligned Interdependent Relationships, and Restorative Justice and Anti-Racism. CCEJ will offer a new series of workshops for staff and faculty this spring, and the student cohort racial justice training series will continue through the spring.
Scripps will also offer additional educational opportunities to faculty and staff through the University of Southern California’s Liberal Arts College Race and Equity Leadership Alliance. As an inaugural member of this alliance, Scripps will have access to racial equity convenings, professional and online resources, and campus climate surveys for our community. The alliance aims to create a vibrant network of colleges committed to antiracism efforts and to engage in deep reflection that moves racial equity work forward. Over the coming months, the College will invite employees to participate in a number of upcoming workshops offered by the alliance.
Presidential Scholarship Initiative
I am thrilled to announce that the Presidential Scholarship Initiative has raised $10.5 million to date, surpassing the $10 million initial goal. The fund was established in 2017 to create an endowed scholarship that covers the full cost of tuition for our lowest-income students and families. As of this academic year, the Presidential Scholarship Initiative is providing full grant support to 95 students and loan-reduction awards for an additional 36 seniors. Next year, we anticipate increasing loan-free financial aid packages to more than 100 Scripps students. We are now able to provide approximately 10% of the Scripps student body loan-free financial aid packages; just three years ago, this was true for less than 1% of our students. This is possible due to the amazing generosity of our supporters.
Official Scripps College Merchandise
The College will launch its online merchandise store, The Browsing Room, this February, featuring official branded Scripps College products for alumnae and families. Scripps has collaborated with alumna Barbara Perry-Lorek ’88 to offer a variety of licensed products, including clothing, accessories, pet items, and travel gear, selected by a panel of alums, families, staff, and students. The Browsing Room will also partner with the Scripps Student Store to include student-geared merchandise on the online site.
Community Engagement Opportunities
As remote instruction continues, Scripps continues to offer a variety of virtual programs designed to create an environment for dialogue and community building. I encourage members of our community to take advantage of the many opportunities such programs offer to explore the complex questions and challenges facing our world today and to engage in critical analysis of the perspectives shaping public conversations.
Spring Public Events
Scripps Presents, which is celebrating its fifth year as the College’s signature public events series, has announced its spring season. This season’s virtual events include conversations with Nobel Prize in Literature recipient Kazuo Ishiguro, feminist rock icons Ani DiFranco and Liz Phair, and poet, essayist, and cultural critic Hanif Abdurraqib. This season also marks the debut of Scripps Presents’ “Brunch with…” programming, in which audience members can cook at home along with James Beard Award-winning chef Yotam Ottolenghi and celebrated pastry chef Roxana Jullapat.
Under the direction of Professor of Philosophy Yuval Avnur, the Humanities Institute will continue to explore the theme A Broader History of Thought. This season’s virtual events include a series of conversations with preeminent scholars and artists from across the globe, who will examine political philosophies of power, contemporary and transformative art, and issues of moral motivation.
The Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery will launch its virtual exhibition, Shiki: The Four Seasons in Japanese Art, on January 30. The Clark Humanities Museum will continue to present a virtual photographic exhibition curated by students from Professor Ken Gonzales-Day’s fall 2020 Core III class, until the exhibition can be mounted in the museum upon our return to campus.
For more College news and updates, please visit our website.
As I announced last fall, I will be leaving Scripps College this spring. In the coming weeks, the Board of Trustees will announce the appointment of an interim president, the formation of a presidential search committee, which will include College trustees, faculty, staff, and student representatives, and the selection of an executive search firm to facilitate the recruitment process. Additional information about the presidential transition process and opportunities for community input will be announced throughout the semester and posted to a presidential transition website currently under development.
Thank you for your dedication and contributions to our community, which have been vital during this time. Although this has been a difficult period, an Adrienne Rich quotation carved on Inscription Walk reminds us that “the moment of change is the only poem”—that tumultuous times challenge us to find different ways of thinking, learning, and engaging with the world around us. As we move through this season of uncertainty, recognizing the many moments of change still to come, we continue to reflect on the hope embodied in the College’s motto: Incipit Vita Nova.