Message Regarding Proposed Student Event

Dear Saint Mary’s Community,

I would like to follow up on the message sent by Drs. Frances Sweeney, Corey Cook, Anthony Garrison-Engbrecht, and Kathy Littles yesterday regarding an event scheduled to be hosted this week by the Center for Women and Gender Equity and the Muslim Student Association. Due to the multiple perspectives and information shared by members of our community, the organizers have decided to postpone the event until they can investigate further and decide how best to meet their goals for the planned event. 

I have asked Senior Staff and the Academic Senate to take this opportunity to address three major issues that have emerged as a result of this discussion. First, we are dealing with the immediate proposed event. It has been postponed, and conversations have begun to address how to gather information, review the concerns surrounding the speaker and the community’s response, and move forward. Second, as a College community, we need to clarify our policy about campus events (both events open only to the campus community and public events held by the College), and our processes for inviting potentially controversial speakers so that those planning events have more explicit guidelines with which to work. We will continue the process begun last year by the Academic Senate on revising the speaker policy, with an aim to have a campus-wide policy for all programs, including those held by students, staff, and faculty.

Third, I want to ensure that our community holds respectful and valuable conversations on a broad array of issues. We must live up to our mission to care for and respect one another—students, faculty, and staff—with every communication that we make. Communicating effectively and with compassion—whether through our emails, over Zoom, or in person—is central to our core Lasallian principles. We aim to foster a communicative environment and protect, strengthen, and promote the mission of our campus, which includes caring for one another at all times.

As stated in our current speaker policy, “As a Catholic, Lasallian institution, our mission challenges us to pursue truth wherever it can be found, confident that between faith and reason there can be no fundamental conflict.” From our Collegiate Seminar classrooms to our public forums, we affirm the practice of engaging with each other fully, and always with care and respect. 

We at Saint Mary’s adamantly support academic freedom, the freedom of faculty, students, and College personnel and programs to pursue knowledge without undue or unreasonable interference. Guided by Catholic Social Teaching, this is essential to our educational mission at Saint Mary’s College. We continue to respect academic freedom in our public and private events, as in all facets of the institution. Through clear policies and comprehensive guidelines, I trust that individuals and groups will be able to make decisions on speakers and events grounded in full consideration of both intention and impact.

I thank you for your commitment to these discussions and look forward to our collective work in addressing these issues. 

Sincerely,

Richard Plumb, PhD
President