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University of Richmond Update

November 2016

Dear University faculty and staff, alumni, students, parents, and friends: 

As the semester nears its end and we enter the season of Thanksgiving, I write to offer my gratitude for the remarkable community we share at the University.

Throughout the semester, we have enjoyed on campus many expressions of a flourishing and engaged academic life. Our new Dean of Arts and Sciences, Patrice Rankine, opened the academic year with a Colloquy address that focused on politics in classical Rome and the role of the liberal arts in “bettering the commonwealth” and promoting the common good. The Jepson School has brought to campus an extraordinary array of scholars as part of the Jepson Leadership Forum, focused this year on Reconstruction and the Arc of Racial (In)Justice. The Law School hosted representatives from the two major presidential campaigns to discuss the environmental policy agendas of their candidates. And shortly after the election, students organized an event in which faculty from many different disciplines provided perspectives on the recent presidential election and its implications for American policy, and orchestrated a peaceful and inspiring unity march that advocated for their ideals rather than against a particular candidate or perspective.

As the topics for each of these events suggest, our nation and the world face complex problems that will not have easy solutions. Too often in our political dialogue, we seem to lack capacity to disagree energetically, substantively, and with civility. On our campus, however, I have been encouraged by the serious engagement with these important questions and the tone we have set. We prize and celebrate inclusivity. And as an academic community, we also prize discourse, debate, inquiry, critique, candor, and reason. After a bitter election season, I feel especially grateful to live in a community committed to shared values and to modeling the kind of substantive and civil disagreement that creates new knowledge and new pathways to understanding around shared approaches to problems that affect us all.

Planning for our future

The University is committed to preparing students for “lives of purpose, thoughtful inquiry, and responsible leadership in a diverse world.”  Over the past year we have made considerable progress on a new strategic plan that will help us carry this mission forward in new and exciting ways in the coming years. Strategic planning working groups have now completed their draft goals and initiatives, and they are available on our strategic planning website. I encourage all of you to provide candid feedback on these goals and initiatives. As we begin to draft a plan that will guide the University through 2022, the engagement of the entire community will help ensure that the plan is an accurate and ambitious reflection of our shared aspirations.

On student wellness and safety

The University has made significant progress on the initiatives outlined in my Oct. 7, 2016, message to the University community. The location for the Center for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response has been established at Sarah Brunet Hall in proximity to CAPS’ (Counseling and Psychological Services) offices. The Center is designed to ensure that the University support resources are holistic and coordinated. We have begun the search process for a dedicated counselor with expertise in counseling and supporting survivors of sexual violence and for the full-time education and prevention specialist. Additionally, the University is making good progress on plans to bring an independent, confidential survivor advocate to the Center.  

The process for investigating and responding to reports of sexual misconduct is now independent of the Coordinate Colleges. Tracy Cassalia, Manager of Health Education and Wellness, has agreed to serve, on an interim basis, in the role of Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Students, while the University conducts a national search for this position. The University has engaged experienced, independent investigators to investigate reports of sexual misconduct. Tina Cade, Associate Vice President for Student Development, is now serving as the conduct officer for student conduct cases involving reports of sexual misconduct. The University has engaged an independent hearing officer to preside over hearings before the University Hearing Board.  

I have received a number of nominations for the President’s Advisory Committee for Sexual Violence Prevention and Response and will name the Committee before the end of the semester.  The Committee’s first priority will be to evaluate the results of the external review of the University’s sexual misconduct policies and procedures.

Finally, I am also pleased to report that Connor Marsden, President of the University of Richmond Alumni Association, has informed me that the URAA plans to support the important educational work of our “Spiders for Spiders” sexual assault awareness and prevention program with $15,000 over three years. We are deeply grateful for URAA’s support and for the terrific work that our students do through Spiders for Spiders.

Fetrow to lead alma mater; Provost search launched

As you may have heard, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jacque Fetrow will become the 15th president of Albright College in June 2017. Provost Fetrow received her undergraduate degree from Albright and will become the first alum to lead the institution. The Albright presidency is an exceptional opportunity, and I know Provost Fetrow will be an outstanding leader for her alma mater, just as she has been at Richmond. 

We have launched a national search for Provost Fetrow’s successor, and look forward to discussing with members of the campus community the qualities we will seek in our next Provost. I hope that those who are able will participate in these conversations by attending one of the two open meetings: Faculty Open Forum on Monday, Nov. 28, from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. in the Alice Haynes Room (Tyler Haynes Commons); and Open Forum for all University community members on Tuesday, Nov. 29, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Jepson Hall, Room 118.

You may also be interested to know that we have begun the search for our next University Chaplain. Steve Bisese, Vice President for Student Development, and Stephanie Cobb, George and Sallie Cutchin Camp Professor of Bible, are co-chairing the search. Bryn Bagby Taylor, Director of Spiritual Formation, is serving as Interim University Chaplain.

University accolades

The University has received several recent accolades in national publications. The Institute of International Education recently ranked the University No. 2 and No. 5 among peer institutions in two Open Doors surveys. Richmond ranked No. 2 among the top-40 baccalaureate institutions for the total number of students studying abroad for short-term, summer, semester, and academic year terms for 2014–15. A total of 577 Richmond students studied abroad that academic year. The University also ranked No. 5 among the top baccalaureate institutions for the total number of international students — 430 — who studied on campus in 2015–16.

In other recent rankings, The Wall Street Journal named Richmond No. 84 overall among 1,000 top colleges of all sizes in the U.S., and No. 8 for “schools that do the best in combining scholarly research with classroom instruction.” Business Insider named Richmond one of its “50 Best Colleges in America.” And Richmond ranks No. 27 in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings among national liberal arts colleges, up from No. 32 last year.

The Princeton Review has named Richmond a “green” college for 2016. The college guidebook publisher annually recognizes colleges for environmental initiatives in construction, transportation, energy conservation, and recycling. And the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) has ranked Richmond fifth in the area of Diversity and Affordability in the 2016 Sustainable Campus Index.

Spider Athletics

The women’s cross country team won its second straight Atlantic 10 title, placing five runners in the Top 20. Head Coach Lori Taylor was named A-10 Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. Field hockey placed five players on All-Conference teams, including three Spiders on the first team and two on the all-rookie team. The team advanced to the A-10 semifinals. And football earned its third consecutive FCS playoff berth. The Spiders will host North Carolina A&T on Saturday, Nov. 26 in Robins Stadium. Additional information is available atwww.richmondspiders.com. 

Men’s and women’s basketball kicked off their seasons at home on Nov. 11 and 13, respectively. I enjoyed performing the National Anthem with a group of students at the men’s home opener. Our perennial champion women’s swimming and diving team opened their season in October, and the women’s track and field squad competes in its first meet on Dec. 3.

We celebrated the academic accomplishments of our student-athletes on Nov. 7 at the Scholar-Athlete Breakfast. Sixty-four percent of the nearly 350 Spider athletes earned a 3.0 grade point average or better this past year, the highest percentage in our history. Fifty-five percent ended 2015–16 with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better — also a record high. We invite all Spiders near and far to join us in cheering on, and celebrating with pride, all 17 of our teams this year.

Year-end giving

We are grateful for all members of the University community who have made gifts to the Annual Fund, continuing a tradition of generosity that dates to the University’s founding. Student callers will be reaching out to alumni and friends as we approach the end of the calendar year, so we encourage you to answer a call from a Spider. Members of the Richmond community may also make end of year gifts on the giving website.

A season of gratitude

I am grateful for the contributions that so many are making to support our students and advance the University. And I am deeply thankful for your confidence and optimism as we pursue initiatives that will make our Richmond community stronger for all its members.

This season of thankfulness and celebration reminds us how fortunate we are to be a part of the University of Richmond community. I invite your continued enthusiasm, engagement, and support as we work together on behalf of this great University. I hope to have the opportunity to greet you personally in the months to come, either on campus or at one of our many events around the country.  

In appreciation and with best wishes,

Ronald A. Crutcher
President