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Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Presidential Task Force

July 13, 2020

Dear Members of the Villanova Community,

As we have witnessed in recent weeks, we are at a pivotal time in our nation’s history.

Current events have reignited and prompted difficult and necessary conversations regarding race and equity. These are conversations that are long overdue in our country, our world, and especially in our Villanova community, as evidenced by the experiences shared on the @BlackVillanova Instagram account. If you have not seen or read these posts, I encourage you to read them. They reveal a different side of life at Villanova. I have read the posts and many of the experiences shared are heartbreaking. To all the students, faculty, staff and alumni who have posted to this account, please forgive us. I promise that Villanova can and will do better.

Five years ago, I moved the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) from Student Life to the Office of the Provost, as the Office oversaw University initiatives and training. Terry Nance, PhD, was named to the position of Associate Vice Provost to lead ODEI’s efforts. Given our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in our Strategic Plan: Rooted. Restless., I would like to give ODEI an even more prominent position within the University. Therefore, I am naming—with unanimous support from the Villanova University Board of Trustees—Dr. Nance as Vice President and changing the reporting line of ODEI to the President. Dr. Nance’s knowledge, leadership and insight have been invaluable to our DEI efforts, and I can think of no one better to lead Villanova in this important work in the weeks, months and years to come.

Along with this change, I am establishing Aequitas: The Presidential Task Force on Race (aequitas is the Latin word for equity). Led by Dr. Nance and comprised of a cross section of Villanova students, faculty, staff and alumni, the Aequitas Task Force is charged with assessing the racial climate on campus, identifying areas for improvement, and creating a plan for developing the cultural competence for all students, staff and faculty who are members of the Villanova community.

Preliminarily, I have asked the Task Force to:

  • Encourage all departments and academic programs to undertake a systematic evaluation of the underlying assumptions of their disciplines related to race, particularly as explained in introductory courses. 
  • Work with the relevant constituencies to develop a University diversity course experience that includes a dialogue component and adjust the University Learning Goals to include a goal on anti-racism education and cultural competence.
  • In conjunction with the Strategic Plan: Rooted. Restless., set goals for increasing the numbers of Black and minoritized members of our community, particularly students, senior staff and faculty. 
  • Review all relevant climate data related to the perceptions of Black and minoritized students, faculty and staff on campus regarding their lives on campus. If information is not available, the Task Force will work with the Office of Strategic Planning and Institutional Effectiveness to develop appropriate instruments to gather the information required. Based upon reviewed data, the Task Force will identify and isolate areas of concern to develop both long- and short-terms goals to accomplish required change.
  • Report Task Force progress on goals in monthly scheduled sessions with me and senior leadership.

More information about the Task Force can be found on the Aequitas page on the Office of the President website. Additional information about in-progress and upcoming initiatives will also be shared on the Aequitas page in the coming weeks.

These are important actions that need to be taken at Villanova. This University was built on the premise of inclusivity, and I believe it is critically important, maybe now more than ever, that we remain true to this foundation. Villanova must be a place where all feel welcomed, included and valued. There is work to be done, and I am grateful to Dr. Nance and the Task Force for moving forward with this mission-critical responsibility. 


image of Father Peter's signature

Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA