Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here today and thank you for your service to the University. It is an honor to be with you in one of the top performing arts centers.
First, let me say congratulations to today’s award winners! You make us all proud to be at Clemson. Let me also thank David Blakeslee, Antonis Katsiyannis and Matt Bundrick for their leadership. Their advice and counsel to me and to the Board of Trustees has been invaluable – during this year of transition. Also since this is Dr. Jones’ first meeting of this type as Executive Vice President /Provost, let’s thank him for his leadership.
It is hard for me to believe that it has been a year since I joined the Clemson Family. And it has been a whirl-wind to say the least.
It has been a pleasure to meet so many wonderful people, to travel all over the state and to hear how much people admire and respect Clemson University.
We enjoyed many significant achievements in 2014 – including the fact that we reached our goal of being one of the nation’s Top 20 public universities.
We also set new records in fund-raising, enrolled another academically strong freshman class and welcomed hundreds of new faculty and staff members to the Clemson Family.
As we look forward to the holiday season and the start of a new year we can take pride and satisfaction knowing that Clemson continues to achieve great things.
Just a few weeks ago, Provost Jones and I held a town meeting to officially kick off the process of re-assessing and updating our strategic plan.
We don’t need to cover that ground again here today – but do know that work is under way and it is moving fast.
The committee structure and membership was announced Monday in Inside Clemson – along with a link to a dedicated website so that you can keep track of progress. You can also provide your input thru this website. And, please do.
However, even as that work takes place, we continue to make progress by implementing the existing plan.
Right now, undergraduate applications are running about 10 percent ahead of the same time last year – which, by the way, was a record year.
And, I’m pleased to announce that this week The Will to Lead capital campaign passed the $850 million mark on the way toward our goal of $1 billion.
That is a significant milestone, but it’s not about the number. It’s about scholarships, faculty and staff support, facilities and programs that will make a difference for our students and our state. I am very thankful to all – who have contributed to this effort!
We also have more than 1 million square feet of construction and renovation projects under way. These projects include the Watt Innovation Center, the expansion of Freeman Hall, Core Campus and Douthit Hills – with more to come.
Replacing and updating our outdated facilities and infrastructure is good news for our students, faculty and staff – even if it comes with temporary inconveniences.
At the same time, it has been a difficult semester in many respects.
We have lost five students – all of whom were bright and smart young people with enormous potential. I ask that you continue to keep the families of those young people in your thoughts and prayers
We also received a number of reports of inappropriate and deeply disturbing behaviors that led to a moratorium on social activities and internal investigations into a number of fraternity organizations.
And, in recent weeks, we have seen events and issues – ranging from an inappropriate themed party to hurtful social media posts – that have caused division and made some of our students feel unwelcome.
Clearly, positive change is needed, and I want to express my appreciation to the many students, faculty, staff and alumni who have come forward to ask – how can they help.
I have asked our Chief Diversity Officer Leon Wiles and our Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Almeda Jacks to lead an effort to enhance diversity and foster a greater sense of unity among all members of the Clemson Family.
Specifically – we are launching the following new initiatives:
We will also review all existing diversity plans, climate studies and task force recommendations that have been issued over the past several years – to see where we have had success and where we have fallen short of our goals.
We know that these actions will not prevent occasional thoughtless or hurtful remarks or acts, but I hope they will demonstrate a step towards our commitment to the core values we teach our student: integrity, honesty and respect.
We should recognize and take pride in areas where we are making progress:
I suspect there will be a lot of discussion on the campus about diversity and inclusive excellence as we revise our strategic plan. There are many good ideas embedded in existing reports, and additional climate studies are planned for this spring. This gives us a solid foundation to develop — an action-oriented plan.
Clemson University has accomplished great things in the past, and I believe we have an even brighter future ahead of us if we work together, if we support and respect each other, and if we provide a campus environment that allows everyone to succeed.
Thank you all for your hard work and your dedication to our students. I hope you have a wonderful, restful and peaceful holiday break.