GOAL III: Well-Being
To Strengthen the Inclusiveness, Health, and Well-Being of Our Community: We will create new opportunities for developing the skills that will make Skidmore a more healthful, inclusive, and creative community.
A Creative, Inclusive, and Safe Community
The climate of the Skidmore community establishes the overall context for our students’
educational experience—a context that can reinforce or impede their efforts to achieve
their educational objectives. It does so as well for the members of the faculty and
staff who work at the College. Indeed, issues about how our community is experienced
by all of its members relate directly to our most basic values. Therefore we collectively
strive to create a community that lives by higher standards than are seen in the world
at large. By insisting upon those standards and expecting members of the community
to comport themselves accordingly, we are providing an image of the possible—an image
we hope all of us can look to as we do our part to influence an imperfect world for
Over the course of the previous Strategic Plan, we made important gains in diversifying our student body and our faculty.18 Adding more members of historically underrepresented groups to the campus populations has enhanced our institution in important and meaningful ways. We need to persist in these efforts and, in fact, place renewed energy behind them, especially in the areas of staff and administration. We believe that recent changes in hiring practices will make a difference not only within our faculty but in other areas as well. But continuing to increase our diversity in ways that we can measure quantitatively is not enough. As noted above, inclusive excellence requires us to foster a community that supports the highest quality of experience across our entire student body, faculty, and staff.
Extensive surveys of our campus populations have shown that members of historically underrepresented groups—especially persons of color—can experience the campus as a less inclusive environment than our ideals call for. The factors that produce this situation have made it more difficult for some of these community members to achieve academic and professional success. Moreover, the obstacles to inclusion also have impeded their inclination and ability to contribute their ideas, suggestions, and creativity to the broader campus—a notable misuse of important talent leading to missed opportunities. The time has come to create a comprehensive institutional blueprint around issues of diversity and inclusion—a Campus Plan for Diversity and Inclusion—analogous to the Campus Sustainability Plan. We have created and filled a new Cabinet-level position of Chief Diversity Officer, who reports directly to the President. We have charged that individual to lead this effort, incorporating the substantial work already done over the past few years by the Committee on Intercultural and Global Understanding (CIGU) and others. Indeed, we have a shared responsibility to cultivate a campus climate in which all community members can thrive.
We will engage the campus community, over the coming months and years, in new efforts to understand the challenges to inclusion that exist—both at the College and in the larger world—and to increase our success in addressing and overcoming those challenges. Skidmore stands at a critical juncture where we must focus more on fostering an inclusive and respectful climate in which every member of our community feels valued and all experience a sense of belonging, because they all know that their contributions to the community are both welcomed and appreciated. As an educational community in which dialogue is highly valued, Skidmore should achieve this outcome by creating new opportunities for frank, honest, open, and respectful conversation among various constituencies in settings both small and large.
We also acknowledge that eliminating sexual and gender-based misconduct has become an increasing topic of concern on Skidmore’s campus, as is the case throughout higher education across our country. In recent years, we have intensified longstanding efforts to examine and periodically update the College’s policies and procedures around these issues. We have reviewed and revised our policies and processes; in collaboration with the Board of Trustees, we have had our policies and procedures reviewed by external legal experts; we have revised our policies to ensure compliance with a changing legal environment (including recent changes to New York State law); we have held numerous campus forums on this topic—seeking both to inform our community and to receive input; and we have collaborated actively with the other New York Six schools to share best practices and develop the necessary capabilities on our campus. But we still are not where we want to be in achieving a community that is free from such behavior. Over the course of this Plan, we will continue our efforts to adopt and implement the best practices available nationally, and to ensure that we have the necessary institutional structures in place to prevent unwanted behavior where possible and to deal with it effectively, should it occur. We have directed significant attention to educational efforts for our student body, and we will continue to seek new and more creative ways to help all members of our campus community collaborate in addressing this issue.
Wellness and Well-Being
Our larger goal is to cultivate well-being among all our populations. This concept
is a multifaceted construct that includes traditional ideas about a satisfying life
that are embedded in the values of liberal education itself. Examples include the
appreciation of the aesthetic dimension of human existence, the experience of accomplishing
meaningful work, an attention to social responsibility, a sense of belonging to a
community, and an overall sense of personal fulfillment and satisfaction with one’s
life. Such values are integral to the realization of the unique potential of each
member of our community. They also are critical to the health of an educational institution.
And although it is impossible to guarantee that every member of our community will
realize these values, it is possible to create structures and promote relationships
within our community that support such ideals.
Accordingly, we now choose to elevate the value of well-being—both individually and institutionally—and approach it more systematically and intentionally than in the past. Drawing upon our commitment to transformative educational experiences, we will consciously cultivate the qualities that are central for well-being: resilience in the face of adversity, motivation to persist in spite of failure, trust in one’s agency, development of purpose and meaning, a sense of belonging, and motivation to contribute to the common good. This effort will include developing a comprehensive Campus Wellness Plan (again, analogous to the Campus Sustainability Plan) and identifying the resources that will be required to implement it.
We believe that creating a resilient and responsive campus—one in which all individuals know both how to ask for help and how to help one another—is directly linked to creating a context in which all individuals feel valued and included: a campus where all members of our community have the opportunity to learn, create, challenge one another, and contribute to the educational mission of the College. Inclusion and well-being belong together, because they require and reinforce each other. We view well-being as both a community value and a community responsibility, meaning that all members of our community have a role to play in helping our students and other community members develop lifelong healthy habits of mind, body, and spirit. These habits of well-being are directly linked with the capacity of our students to tolerate uncertainty, anxiety, distress, and confusion in the interests of intellectual growth, creativity, and emotional maturation. Thus attention to well-being and inclusion is not an “add-on” to our strategic vision, but rather it relates to the very foundations of the intellectual and personal growth we seek to foster at Skidmore.
This conversation also includes considerations of athletics and physical fitness. In recent years we have enhanced both our athletic facilities and fitness programs. But we know that more needs to be done in these areas. We have developed an Athletics Facilities Plan, and over the course of the next 10 years, we will continue to seek the funding necessary to implement its initial stages.
We will create multiple opportunities on campus for our students to learn and practice such healthy habits and responsible behaviors. We will establish strategic links between their academic and cocurricular well-being, resiliency, and balance—challenging them to grow and transform across multiple individual, academic, and interpersonal dimensions in their four years on campus. We will acknowledge the ways in which our students’ lives are negatively affected by alcohol and substance abuse, mental health issues, and sexual and gender-based misconduct. We are committed to taking an inclusive, public-health-based approach to these issues to understand existing structures and tendencies within our various populations and use that understanding to foster positive change. The College’s Smoking Policy (implemented in 2014) represents one attempt to create a more healthful campus environment, but enforcement of this policy has been inconsistent at best. We need to renew our efforts to implement the current policy, and we need to decide whether to take the next step toward being a smoke-free campus.
These objectives represent just one more manifestation of our commitment to being a community of respect—one that affirms the basic value of all its members, that calls upon them to respect both themselves and one another, and that provides a context in which all community members are supported in making their unique contributions. Our overarching objective is always that all our students consistently have full access to the opportunities and challenges of a liberal arts education.
PRIORITY INITIATIVES in support of GOAL III: Well-being
Develop additional institutional capacity and programming to make Skidmore a truly creative and inclusive community, such that other schools look to Skidmore as a model.
- Develop an institutional Diversity and Inclusion Plan to guide college wide work toward achieving inclusive excellence.
- Increase professional development opportunities for members of the College staff.
- Increase communitywide opportunities for all members of the College community to engage in meaningful dialogue and explore different frameworks of analysis with the goal of achieving mutual understanding.
- Continue to support the Pilot Staff Advisory Group; review the structure and effectiveness of the group in spring 2017.
Create new opportunities to foster practices that enhance the wellness and well-being of all community members.
- Monitor and, as needed, make changes to ensure that the College benefits package for employees makes health and wellness a more prominent objective; incorporate wellness assistance and incentives into health insurance.
- To promote strategic alignment of well-being initiatives across College divisions, convene a group of campus leaders to form a well-being collaborative to plan, seek funding for, and implement a comprehensive plan to promote campus wide well-being (e.g. explore ways to increase effectiveness of the campus Smoking Policy and determine whether to make Skidmore a smoke-free environment). Enhance opportunities for members of the campus community—most especially students but also members of the faculty and staff—to pursue activities relating to physical fitness and overall health.
- Holistically address sexual and gender-based misconduct through implementation of an inclusive public health approach that involves all campus constituencies.
- Develop new ways to leverage the relationship between campus athletic facilities,
the health of students and employees, and the success of our student–athletes who
participate in intercollegiate athletics. Continue fundraising to implement initial
stages of the Athletics Facilities Plan Boathouse for the Crew Program, and expanded locker rooms, weightlifting area, cardio-fitness
center, and tennis facility. [Additional fundraising required: approximately $15 million.]
18 Between the years of 2006 and 2015, the percentage of students of color in the general student population increased from 15% to 22%. The increase is largely due to greater numbers of Latino and Asian American students. We have not seen a similar increase in the number of African American and Native American students. During the same period, the population of first-generation students grew from 6% to 12%, and the overall international student population reached 10%, representing a 400% increase since 2006. The class that entered in fall 2015 included 13% international students, plus an additional 6% of students holding dual passports.