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Ad Hoc Committee on Wellbeing, Belonging, and Social Life

President Valerie Smith shared the following message with the community on August 25, 2017:

Dear Members of the Swarthmore Community,

During the last four years, we’ve seen many changes to student life, including the creation of the Office of Student Engagement (OSE), the revision of our alcohol policy, and improvements to the Swat Team program to enhance safety at social events on campus. Through the efforts of the Title IX team, the Health and Wellness Center, OSE, and other offices, we’ve introduced a range of new programs and trainings for students related to healthy relationships, alcohol and drugs, and overall wellness and self-care. We’ve opened new facilities that support the student experience such as the Matchbox and the Danawell addition, and we’ve renovated existing ones such as Essie Mae’s and Cornell Library. Last year we introduced significant changes in the meal plans to provide students with greater flexibility, including the ability to use points at participating merchants in the Ville. This fall we will open the PPR apartments, which will offer kitchen facilities, among other amenities.

In addition, members of the campus community have participated in several substantial initiatives focused on the nature of the student experience and the campus climate more broadly. In spring 2015 the College conducted a self-study on “Learning, Working, and Living Outcomes,” and during the 2015-2016 academic year, the Self-Study Action Committee launched a collaborative process to review the results of the study and outline next steps. Last year this committee implemented key recommendations. In addition, last winter we completed a six-month visioning process designed to help us re-imagine the student experience. These efforts have helped us understand our strengths and recognize opportunities for improvement.

In the last two years, community members have expressed the desire for greater balance and wellbeing, the importance of spaces in which to socialize and build community, and the need for a more inclusive social life that enables our diverse community to thrive. Building upon these themes, I am charging an ad hoc committee of faculty, students, staff, and a member of the Board of Managers to review the College’s goals for student life and recommend ways that we can cultivate a student experience that is healthy, inclusive, and equitable. The Ad Hoc Committee on Wellbeing, Belonging, and Social Life will replace the Dean’s Advisory Council, which has had a similar focus in recent years. Once this committee’s work is complete, the Dean’s Advisory Council will be restored.

I am charging the Ad Hoc Committee to examine, among other topics, the following issues that have surfaced during the last several years:

Balance & Wellness

  • How should we support student health and wellness, including cultivating self-care, stress management, and resilience?
  • How might we re-examine our culture of over-achieving, over- scheduling and over-programming while preparing our students for future success?

Spaces & Equity

  • What improvements to our student space allocation procedures would promote our goals for a safe, equitable, and inclusive student social life?
  • How can we re-imagine the use of spaces on campus to encourage collaboration, coalition-building and sharing of resources?

Inclusion & Belonging

  • What types of events would strengthen a sense of belonging and deepen connections to the broader community?
  • What is and should be the role of fraternities and sororities at Swarthmore within the context of social life?
  • What further steps do we need to take to promote student social experiences that are safe and inclusive?

Learning & Development

  • How can we empower students to play an active role in enriching their social life and promoting shared responsibility, accountability, and respect for one another?
  • How should we support opportunities for students to connect across backgrounds, learn from differing perspectives, and develop skills to negotiate conflict?

The co-chairs of the ad hoc committee will be Bruce Dorsey, Professor of History, and Liz Braun, Dean of Students. Below is a list of the faculty, staff, and Board member who have agreed to serve. Three students will be appointed to the Ad Hoc Committee. If you are a student interested in applying, please complete this brief application by September 4. The Ad Hoc Committee will be fully constituted by early September and will begin its work shortly thereafter. The Committee will be prepared to share recommendations with me by the end of spring semester 2018.


Valerie Smith

Ad Hoc Committee on Wellbeing, Belonging, and Social Life*

  • Liz Braun, Dean of Students, co-chair
  • Bruce Dorsey, Professor of History, co-chair
  • Alice Holland, Director of Health and Wellness Services
  • Landry Kosmalski, Head Men’s Basketball Coach
  • Lisa Meeden, Professor of Computer Science 
  • Nathan Miller, Associate Dean of Students
  • Aixa Pomales, Director of Support Services at ITS
  • H. Vincent Poor, Member of the Board of Managers
  • Michelle Ray, Interim Title IX Coordinator

  • Tomoko Sakomura, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Art History
  • Shá Duncan Smith, Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development
  • Jeremy Seitz Brown '18
  • Francisco Veron Ferreira '19
  • Janice Luo '19
  • Cassandra Stone '20

*revised membership as of 9/20/17