President Elam’s greetings to returning students

A message from President Elam welcoming returning students to a new semester.

Dear Returning Occidental Students,

I hope that you have had an enjoyable summer, despite the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. I know that, for many of you, there is much disappointment and frustration because we are unable to offer you a traditional Oxy experience. As you know, the increase in virus cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County as well as in the rest of the state and the nation have compelled us to go to an all-remote teaching and learning formula for the fall semester. While we feel this is the right decision, we understand that this is not what many of you hoped would result. For that, I am deeply sorry. Please know that as incoming president, I too had a very different vision of what my first fall at Occidental would look like. I had looked forward to meeting and convening with you in person, sharing a meal at the MP, and being present during move-in. One of the main reasons that I chose to come to Occidental was the opportunity to work with an empowered, diverse and gifted student body, to help them make the most of their time at Occidental and prepare for lives of impact. Certainly, these plans will need to find alternative modes of implementation this fall, over our remote distance.

Still, what I want most to accomplish can begin remotely and I hope will start with this letter—and that is building a relationship based on respect, trust and transparency. I understand that as students, you want and need to function as agents within your education and that you are deeply concerned about the present and future directions of our College. To that end, I pledge to work together with you and to keep channels of communication as open as they can possibly be. Starting with the first week of classes, August 24-31, I will hold bi-weekly office hours explicitly for students. At first, these will have to be remote; you can sign up with my executive assistant, Rocio Ramos, at ASOC President Kitty Lu and I will meet regularly. I will also meet early this fall with the Diversity and Equity Board and the Honor Board. Kitty and the ASOC leadership have told me that one of their goals for the year will be to demystify for students the roles and responsibilities of different members of the administration, and we look forward to working with ASOC in this regard.

In addition, I have heard and will respond to the students' call for further action to promote diversity, equity and justice on campus. I understand that many of you are still suffering with grief and continue to have concerns related to the tragic deaths of Ilah Richardson and Jaden Burris. Please know that we hear you. With the start of school this fall, I will be scheduling a meeting with the leaders of black student organizations, Harambee, Black Womxn Thrive, and the Black Student Alliance.  In addition, I recently met with, and reviewed the report from, the campus-wide Committee on Equity and Justice. I also will soon have the report from the ICC regarding a new Black Advocacy Plan. With these documents in hand and with the information gathered through discussion with the community, I will work this year to outline a program for decisive action, new programming, and initiatives related to equity and justice for Oxy’s Black community specifically and our community more generally. From its inception to its implementation and follow-through, this effort will need to involve and engage students. I welcome your ideas, comments and suggestions.

Please know how very excited I am about the opportunity to see and talk with you during the fall, if only virtually. I also look forward to working with the entire Occidental student body on developing and strengthening our modes of communication and our bonds of community. I hope that you have a very successful fall semester.

Very best,
President Elam