August 20, 2019
Dear Men of Morehouse:
It is with great pride and excitement that I welcome the Class of 2023 and transfer students to join the returning Men of Morehouse in our journey of excellence that has been unfolding here for more than 150 years.
Since the last academic year came to a close, we have doubled our efforts to become the most student-centric learning environment anywhere in the country because that is the best way to ensure that the next 150 years are as bright as our legacy is historic. These efforts span many areas of the College from Institutional Advancement to Academic Affairs to Facilities to Student Services and to Policy Compliance:
- Inspired by Robert F. Smith’s generosity to pay the student loan debt of the Class of 2019, our Board of Trustees created the Morehouse Student Success Program to help reduce the student loan debt of future graduates. Under the Program, we will solicit donations to reduce or eliminate the debt of our students, creating an opportunity for greater financial freedom for future Morehouse Men.
- We joined the other institutions within the Atlanta University Center Consortium to launch the Data Sciences Initiative thanks to an $8.25 million investment from UnitedHealth Group. The initiative will give students in the AUC access to programs to ensure a path to the fast-growing data analytics field.
- The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) has reaffirmed our accreditation for the next 10 years — which is a testament to the strength of our academic programs and faculty. This comes on the heels of a restructuring of our academic departments into divisions that will foster interdisciplinary learning and eventually customized majors.
- The former department of Student Affairs has been reorganized into our new division of Student Services under Dean Maurice Washington. This includes the creation of the ombudsperson role to assist with student advocacy. Much of this division’s focus in the near- and mid-term is to create programs and services that will enhance the health, well-being, and safety of our student community.
- Last week, Tony Porter, CEO of A Call to Men, was on campus speaking with our student leadership about approaches to healthy, respectful manhood as it relates to relationships with men and women. Tony was back on campus today to speak with new freshmen and transfer students.
- Dr. Cynthia Trawick led a collaborative effort to train student leaders to provide a peer-to-peer student conversation about healthy relationships during NSO that included a discussion about sexual misconduct and how students can avoid it and protect themselves. Dr. Trawick will also be leading the expansion of our counseling services including the rollout of an app to enable distance counseling.
- Over the next few weeks, we will announce the new Title IX coordinator that will replace our former coordinator who left in June. Currently, the Associate Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Compliance Officer, Cassandra Tarver-Ross, is serving as Interim Title IX Coordinator.
- You will also see the launch of bi-weekly conversation circles led by the Student Services staff to help us maintain an open dialogue about the issues and topics new and returning students are facing on campus.
- In September, we will start the first of a recurring Climate Survey to provide you with a feedback mechanism on our strategies and tactics for creating a safer and more student-centric campus.
- Because we know space and place are important to the resident experience at Morehouse, we invested time and money refurbishing Perdue, LLC, Dubois and Otis Moss Suites. We’ve added security details to the northern sector of the campus near Otis Moss Suites both at the perimeter and within the complex.
- And, our facilities team has broken ground on what will be green space and student common area adjacent to the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center.
Your well-being and safety at Morehouse is the top priority for me and my Executive Leadership Team as well as the Board of Trustees. This includes enforcing the policies and procedures in place to maintain a respectful, safe, and productive environment for everyone – students, faculty, and staff alike. But, policies and procedures are simply a starting point. Our success is dependent on our capacity to trust one another and to assume responsibility for one another’s physical and psychological safety. I encourage you to share with me, the faculty, and staff of the College anytime you are aware of activity that compromises your own or another community member’s physical or psychological safety.
Ultimately, this is our Morehouse. This journey of excellence is a partnership my administration takes with you and stewards for you. I believe the steps we’ve taken over the past few months to become more student-centric than in years past are good strides towards realizing the greater Morehouse the world deserves.
David A. Thomas, Ph.D.