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Spring Welcome and Campus Update

President Valerie Smith sent the following message to the community on January 23, 2017.

“Hope gets you there; work gets you through.”  - Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities


Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Welcome back to campus!  At the start of the new year, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on the past semester and look ahead to the spring. In recent months, events on our campus and division across the country have challenged our community. We can look forward to a number of events and initiatives this spring semester that reflect our core values and our aspirations.

This community is dedicated to supporting all students, whatever their backgrounds or circumstances. On December 2, 2016, we affirmed this commitment by pledging to designate Swarthmore College a Sanctuary Campus. I’m pleased to announce that by the start of the new year, the Board of Managers also achieved its goal of contributing $300,000 to establish endowed, ongoing support of the Dean’s Discretionary Fund. This gift will help us more fully address the hidden costs of a Swarthmore education – including medical, travel, and other eligible expenses – that disproportionately burden undocumented, DACA, low-income, first generation, and underrepresented students. I invite all members of our community to contribute to this vital effort to support access and equity for all our students; be sure to note “Dean’s Discretionary Fund” in the designation section.  We are grateful to the managers for their leadership and generosity.

We are a community that practices civil discourse as a core value of a just and democratic society. The Public Discourse and Democracy Series, co-sponsored by the Lang Center, the Aydelotte Foundation, and the Center for Innovation and Leadership, has done a remarkable job of modeling the openness, patience, and respect required to engage differing opinions with civility. I am delighted to announce that under the auspices of this series, Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, will deliver a public lecture entitled “American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity, and Making a Difference” on March 1 from 7:00-8:30 pm in LPAC Cinema. His lecture will serve as the culmination of the Public Discourse and Democracy series and Black History Month.  Watch for more information on future events in this series.

Through our ongoing commitment to climate justice, Swarthmore demonstrates its dedication to serving the common good. Based on a proposal put forward by faculty and staff, Swarthmore implemented a Carbon Charge beginning with the 2016-17 fiscal year. This initiative puts a price on carbon emissions, serving as a model for carbon pricing on a national scale. To learn more about the scope of the remarkable projects our students, staff, and faculty have undertaken, please plan to attend the 2nd Annual Sustainability Summit on April 24th in Eldridge Commons hosted by the Office of Sustainability, Lang Center, Environmental Studies Program, and the Office of the President.

Each of us can play a vital role in advancing sustainability on our campus and throughout our region. To help build a more sustainable future, students may apply for the 2017-18 President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship and Green Advisors Program beginning in March. In addition, students, staff, and faculty may all apply for a Green Initiatives Fund award to support campus sustainability projects.

These values will remain at the forefront of ongoing initiatives such as the Visioning Exercise, an effort that began this summer to help us think more holistically about the types of spaces, services, technologies, and activities that might support students’ lives beyond the classroom. A final report of the Visioning Committee will be released in February, followed by the creation of multi-constituency implementation teams to pilot selected recommendations and continue gathering input in the next phase of this process.

Co-chaired by Professor and Chair of Psychology, Jane Gillham and Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Development, T. Shá Duncan Smith, the Self-Study Action Committee will host community conversations in February, March, and late April/May.  The Committee has also been collaborating with faculty, staff, and students to advance the top priorities from the Self-Study Action Committee Report that I shared this summer. Watch for updates on their progress later this semester.

I continue to be inspired each day by Swarthmore’s unique blend of intellectual engagement and ethical action. This spirit of inquiry, inclusion, and impact will lie at the heart of our upcoming comprehensive campaign. Launching this spring, the campaign will be a chance for all members of our community to express joyfully their commitment to the College’s mission through philanthropy. Contributions at all levels will allow us to strengthen our academic core while pursuing innovative avenues to advance learning and social impact on our campus and beyond. I look forward to sharing more information about the launch events that will take place this spring on campus and continue in locations around the country and world.

Thank you for the many ways you contribute to the life of this community. Your compassion, dedication, and integrity give me hope for a more just and equitable future.


Valerie Smith