In fall 2020, The Catholic University of America took a major step forward toward fulfilling its commitment to embrace and reflect the racial and ethnic diversity that enriches our Church, city, and nation.
President John Garvey announced the creation of the Sister Thea Bowman Committee, named for an alumna of the University who today is on the path toward recognition as a Catholic saint. During her life, Bowman provided an outspoken witness to what it meant to be Black and Catholic.
The Committee was placed under the leadership of Regina Jefferson, a professor who previously served as the dean of the University’s Columbus School of Law.
The Bowman Committee members were “directed to study all facets of University operations and make recommendations concerning racial equality to the University leadership.”
In recognition of the significance this issue has for the University community and for our larger community, and the importance of inclusion, committee members were drawn from among students, parents, alumni, faculty, administrators, and the Archdiocese of Washington.
Shortly after the launch of the Bowman Committee,five subcommittees were formed to focus the work:
Each subcommittee was tasked with examining, assessing, and making recommendations in its area of responsibility to improve the University’s efforts toward racial equality. Over the course of the academic year, the subcommittees met regularly, conducted interviews and surveys, gathered and analyzed data, considered steps taken by other universities, and developed a series of recommendations.
The committee as a whole met each month to report on their progress to date. Final recommendations were submitted by the close of the academic year.
The subcommittees developed comprehensive and wide-ranging proposals that reflect the principles laid out in this report: to recognize that we are one human family, enriched by our diversity; to live out our Catholic responsibility to dismantle structures of sin that perpetuate division; and to practice everyday solidarity.
A number of recommendations seek to address structural issues that may limit or create barriers to inclusion and equality. These include calls for the creation of a chief diversity officer or similar position; more diverse leadership for the Administrative Council and University Board of Trustees; and a more intentional focus to recruit and retain diverse students, faculty, and staff.
Another set of recommendations addresses implementing more diverse academic programs and coursecontent, potentially creating a Center for Racial Justice and Human Dignity, and providing faculty training.
Student-focused recommendations include strengthening support for students of color, including expandedmentoring with faculty, changes to Orientation, expanding support for the first-generation student program, and leadership training.
Another group of recommendations focuses on solidarity through cultural awareness, dialogue and listening, expanded service opportunities, and stronger engagement with the broader community.
All of the recommendations, by subcommittee, are set forth in this report. Some have already been implemented with the approval of the President, most notably the appointment of Associate Dean of Engineering Mel Williams as Special Assistant to the President to coordinate diversity initiatives, a student leadership weekend with the President, and a more diverse Board of Trustees.