Ethan Bachand ‘22
Julianna Mariani ‘24
On Monday, March 13, President Vincent D. Rougeau of the College of the Holy Cross commented on a variety of pressing campus issues. In an interview with The Spire, President Rougeau talked about both current news such as the climate circle as well as ongoing projects like the new City View St. apartments.
President Rougeau was first asked about the new apartments that were announced to be in development on City View St and shared his excitement about the project. He spoke extensively about the continued work around the project, saying, “… it’s been a long time coming, there have been a lot of conversations about it. This is what we think will be the first stage, we hope, of what could potentially be more on City View but we aren’t sure yet. We want to take it one step at a time and see how things progress. We obviously know that we need more housing options for students, so we’re trying to push ahead on them as quickly as we can.” The College has yet to determine a price for the project due to a variety of factors.
Another major development in recent weeks has been decisions around the campus masking mandate. Prior to Friday’s announcement that masking was now optional, President Rougeau spoke about both the realities of masking and the prospects of removing the mandate. He said, “One thing that I want to remind students of is that we try to make data driven decisions. We had data prior to that time that suggested it was time, but then we got some bad news so we had to back away. What I can say to students is the trend lines are all very positive. I think what we’re hearing across the local communities, what we’re seeing on other campuses is that increasingly people are able to drop these mandates and I think that is where we are heading and that’s what we hope to do.”
The president indicated that “good news is coming,” which quickly turned out to be true with an email this past Friday afternoon. While there are some limitations as to when masks must still be worn, the decision opens up the possibility for optional masking in a variety of locations.
After a slew of unsettling incidents on campus in the first few weeks of the spring semester, Holy Cross held a climate circle and President Rougeau himself held a personal webinar to address the concerns of the campus community. During the interview, the President was asked to provide insight into concrete actions that the Holy Cross community can expect in regards to these and potential future incidents. The president first commented on the nature of the incidents by saying, “I think the biggest thing is that we’re going to remain vigilant when these incidents occur. I don’t have any real specific things to say that we’re going to do x if this happens or y if that happens, but we’re going to continue to point students to our Title IX processes, we’re going to continue to work with our new DEI professionals to make a log to get us in a better position to address concerns across campus around diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The President also made it known that they are working closely with Public Safety in order to keep the campus safe and make the resources available to the community known. Both the president and the Director of Communications at the College, John Hill, drew attention to the unsettling nature of the incidents but wanted to analyze the data a bit further. Firstly, President Rougeau stated, “On the one hand, sometimes the fact that more things are reported seems like things are worse but actually that’s often a sign that awareness is higher; people are reporting things because they understand that those things shouldn’t be happening.”
To that point John Hill referenced a new webpage, holycross.edu/report which he explained, “You can find every single kind of report that you might need, including anonymous reporting. We have a new system called ethicspoint that allows anonymous reporting for a variety of different things and we’re going to be rolling that out and doing more communication about that … to the president’s point that more reporting is good and not necessarily a sign of bad things happening but a sign that people are feeling confident and comfortable that they can go through the right processes.” President Rougeau made it clear that it is a priority of Holy Cross to work closely with the campus community and be sure that they know where improvement is needed and what exactly is working well to keep the campus safe.
To conclude the interview, the president was asked to comment on the honorary degrees in the Class of 2022 which are being awarded to the former president of Holy Cross, Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., and Doctor Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP. President Rougeau was pleased to give some insight on the exceptional work of both men. He spoke highly of the former president by saying, “I have been honored to be able to work with [Fr. Boroughs] before I arrived and in the transition and so it’ll be great to have him back on campus, hopefully refreshed and renewed to spend some time being recognized for all that he’s done.”
The president spoke with a similar tone when asked about Dr. Abraham Verghese, “I think [Dr. Verghese] represents the kind of professional accomplishment and service to all of us that are exactly the kinds of things that we hope our Holy Cross grads will aspire to do as well. But he’s also just a wonderful man, I had a chance to meet him at one of our alumni events near Palo Alto a couple weeks ago and we’re just very honored that he accepted our invitation to come to Holy Cross and I think the students are in for a real treat when he speaks.”