President Rougeau Tackles COVID, Safety, and the Future in Webinar

Joey Abrams ’23

Chief News Editor

  “When I started my tenure at Holy Cross, I shared my emerging vision for the College with the board of trustees. Through a dynamic expression of today’s Jesuit mission, we will lead Holy Cross to realize its full potential as one of the finest liberal arts institutions in the world,” President Rougeau remarked last Wednesday as part of a webinar update for the larger campus community. As the first month since the beginning of classes wrapped up, the President headed to Zoom to speak with students, faculty, and staff to offer encouraging words, lay out plans for future changes, and chronicle the victories and shortcomings of the preceding fall semester. COVID-19, physical safety, new College recognition, and campus development were all topics discussed in the address. 

     President Rougeau kicked off his speech by touching on the state of COVID-19 on campus, which he sees as declining favorably from mid-January peaks. While the College is soon to make a decision on possible changes to COVID-19 policies, the relaxing of policies from the more lenient state government is a lead the College is beginning to follow: “As Massachusetts moves towards optional masking, we should be prepared to follow.”

     However, the President’s tone became much more serious as he took the time out to condemn the racist and violent acts that have occurred since students returned to campus a month ago. President Rougeau sternly denounced all forms of sexual violence and promised that the Holy Cross administration is doing everything in its capacities to make the campus a safer place: “We are committed to providing an environment of wellbeing, mutual respect, and accountability, And we will continue to seek ways to prevent and eliminate sexual violence at Holy Cross.”

     This seriousness continued as the President spoke on two racist incidents—the discovery of racist graffiti in a dorm bathroom and a racist zoom-bombing during a Black History Month event—that were brought to light in the past few weeks. “These cowardly acts are profoundly hurtful and deeply offensive,” President Rougeau remarked before calling the perpetrators out directly: “You do not speak for us and you are not welcome here.” This too came with a renewed promise of combatting racism and actively making Holy Cross an anti-racist institution, from the administration down: “We will not tolerate members of our community being targeted for harassment based on their identities.”

     President Rougeau’s reflections became more hopeful, however, as he described the many successes that the College has been enjoying recently. These include new accolades, a boost in our rankings, and new recognition from nationwide sources. Of these accomplishments, President Rougeau specifically cited that “We are number one in baccalaureate institutions in the United States for our long-term study abroad programs, and this marks the 13th straight year that the College has ranked in the top three,” as well as being named “best value college according to both Kiplinger and Money magazines.”

Other impressive milestones for the College come in the form of increased resources and opportunity for improvement. According to the President, “Buoyed by the stock market and prudent investment strategies, our endowment topped $1 billion dollars for the first time in school history,” a spectacular sign of incoming renovations and updates. According to the President, suggestions from the faculty have largely emphasized the renewal of academic and residence spaces: “Our next investments must be in our academic and residential core. We need to improve our student housing, our classrooms, and our beloved, yet tired, library. How do we breathe new life into our academic buildings and create flexible spaces that inspire learning in a post-pandemic world?” With the Performance Arts Center slated for opening next fall, the President promised that there will be more to come. 

     Overall, the President ended off the webinar with messages of hope and excitement for the rest of the semester, which is sure to bring lots of communication between the administration and community as well as much desired campus updates.

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