January 2, 2007
Dear Faculty, Teachers, Staff, Students, Alumni and Friends of Gallaudet University:
Today is my first day on the job as interim president. It is with a great sense of purpose and humility that I write to you. It is an honor and a privilege to come home and to have an opportunity to serve the community at Gallaudet University. I extend my personal thanks and appreciation to the Board of Trustees for appointing me and for demonstrating confidence in my ability to provide the leadership that will be required during my tenure.
As a community we have had a difficult year in 2006. Today we begin a new year. Together we can heal the hurt and seek greater understanding from one another. We have an opportunity to make Gallaudet an even better university and preserve its leadership role as the world’s major resource for deaf and hard of hearing people. In the coming days and weeks, I will be looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible. I will be scheduling a number of opportunities for us to meet formally and informally. It is my intention for these meetings to be the beginning of ongoing dynamic conversations and exchanges among all of us, including other stakeholders from our national and international communities. Together, through open processes, we will define the challenges that lie before us and plan collectively to overcome them. Together we will find innovative solutions and make the hard choices that will assist our university to achieve greatness.
We are a diverse community of people with a wide range of backgrounds and ideas which draw strength from the shared passion and conviction that Gallaudet is a unique and valuable service organization. I am committed to providing capable leadership to find ways to ensure that everyone has a voice and that their ideas are valued. Together we can learn to respect, understand, and cherish each other and our diversity. This diversity of people and ideas is our strongest asset.
In the coming days I will be making some initial decisions about my administration. Some decisions will be immediate and others will involve a process of input and reflection. I anticipate that the coming days and months will engage us in conversations that will energize us and propel us along a unified path. To learn more about my plans, please visit my video message in Inside Gallaudet.
President Davila shares his plans with the campus community
Choose your video version:
I ask for your support, your patience and your collective wisdom and energy. Working together, Gallaudet University will continue to have a bright and lasting future.
Robert R. Davila
Posted: 3 Jan 2007
[Transcript of Video Message follows]
Hello, and welcome back to the campus. I hope that you and your families had a really pleasant holiday and that you are rested, because we really have a lot of things that we need to do together, and I would like to share some points and ideas with you, and tell you a little bit about what my plans are for the next few weeks and what our priorities will be.
After the announcement of my appointment as the 9th President last month, I knew that there were many things to be done, so I needed to come here [to the campus] to study and learn. There were many individuals that I needed to speak with here, and groups that I needed to talk to and exchange ideas with. So I’ve been here for a few weeks now, and I feel comfortable with my level of understanding about the issues and problems that we must work on, and I’m looking forward to the next 18 to 24 months.
Our goal is to see that the university is in a good position when the next President replaces me and arrives 18 to 24 months from now.
In the near future, I want to focus on a few things and discuss them with you this morning. My first priority will be to focus on the Middle States Association, the MSA’s study and review Gallaudet. I know that [the reaffirmation of] our accreditation is on hold, but a site visit team will be coming soon this month and we will be really prepared to show them openly and honestly that we are still a top-quality institution serving deaf students in the world. We have a proud tradition, and that tradition is still valid and is here to guide our future work.
The second thing I want to do in the next few weeks, as I said before, is to go visit government offices and to meet with people from Congress and reassure them that we are fine, that we are doing well, and that we are continuing with our self-improvement work, so that we can serve our students very well.
That was first, and then also we need to go to the Department of Education. They are involved in the evaluation of our university, and we need to go there and offer to be their partner in any future efforts to continually evaluate our programs.
Also, I promised in my acceptance speech that I would establish focus groups to study issues and problem areas, and come up with recommendations for improvements. The first group that I will discuss with you and establish is a focus group on academic rigor. All of us share the concern that was voiced in the media about Gallaudet and questioning the level of rigor in the education that we are providing to our students. And we need to study this internally and figure out how we can maintain the high standards that we have always committed ourselves to provide to our education efforts.
So, we will work on that in the first group. And we will focus–continue to focus–on our healing. Many people have arrived back on campus and still have very strong memories about the protest; feelings that were created from that kind of strong protest to the situation here on campus. And we want to continue with that healing process, and one way to do that is to develop an effective communication plan so that we would feel that we have established the appropriate channels and processes for communicating and voicing concerns, and communicating input and ideas to top administrators, including my office.
So, we will be working on that. And we will also continue to work on other things that will make us all better professionals serving young deaf people here. I invite you to participate with us. I invite you to put aside the past and to focus on the future. And I will try very hard to provide you with the kind of leadership that I believe this university needs.
But, as I said in my acceptance speech, I can’t do this alone. It requires a commitment from every one of you, and I am confident that we have the sufficient knowledge, skills and talent on this campus to solve any problems facing people who are deaf. And I want to provide the kind of support that you will need to be successful with the work you do every day with our students.
So, again, I want to welcome you back to the campus, and you’ll remember that I began my acceptance speech by saying: “So, I’m home again!” Now I want to expand on that by adding: “And it’s wonderful to be back.”
Thank you very much.