The initiative seeks to build a connection between Jewish student leaders, Hillel professionals and campus officials.
Elon University has been selected to participate in Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative (CCI), a partnership between Elon Hillel and administrators at a select group of colleges and universities that seeks to address antisemitism on campus.
“We’re in a climate where there’s a lot going on around us, and there’s been an increase in antisemitism nationally,” said Betsy Polk, director of Jewish Life and acting associate chaplain. “I think that Elon is thoughtful and strategic about being in front of things and making sure that when things do happen, we are in a position of knowing how to address them,”
Representing Elon along with Polk will be Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley, Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence Randy Williams, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Jeff Stein, University Chaplain Kirstin Boswell, and Associate Professor of Religious Studies Geoffrey Claussen and Professor Brian Pennington, director of the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society.
The initiative sets out to proactively engage higher education leaders with opportunities to rigorously assess the climate of their campus. The CCI model succeeds by strengthening the relationship between Jewish student leaders, Hillel professionals and campus officials. According to Polk, the process of gathering the team took about a week and joining the Campus Climate Initiative cohort took about two weeks. “They said, ‘We really feel like Elon would be a great fit for this and we’d like for you to be a part of it,’” Polk said.
The CCI will work within Elon’s existing commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion. The initiative will also recognize that Jewish students need to be supported as part of these broader efforts, but that content on Jewish identity and antisemitism is often missing.
The year-long cohort will facilitate learning among university administrators committed to creating relationships that will improve communication and coordination whenever an incident of antisemitism occurs on campus.
Elon’s role as a member of the cohort will be sorted going forward, as the administrative team will speak with Hillel International in the coming weeks.
“That might involve site visits, steering committees, surveys. I think there is definitely cooperation with other groups on campus who are doing similar work to build an inclusive community to make sure we’re not stepping on each other’s toes,” Polk said.
The other universities, colleges and university systems that are members of the cohort for the 2021-22 academic year are:
- Binghamton University
- Case Western Reserve University
- Florida Atlantic University
- Goucher College
- Ithaca College
- Kennesaw State University
- New York University
- Northwestern University
- Rutgers University
- San Diego State University
- San Jose State University
- Stony Brook University
- Temple University
- Tufts University
- University of Connecticut
- University of Wisconsin- Madison
- University of Wisconsin System
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia State)