A president’s perspective

MEGHAN STRATTON | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF | mrstratt@butler.edu

Halfway through the fall 2020 semester, Butler President James Danko said he has heard from many students that they are glad to be on campus, yet he worries about the contagious nature of COVID-19. 

Danko said he hears noise on Friday and Saturday nights and worries about the inability to control off-campus clusters.

“I also recognize we’re dealing with people your age, and part of the campus experience and being away at college is the ability to socialize, so I think the intersection of reality and a very contagious virus is the thing that worries me,” Danko said. 

In a proposed effort to minimize the number of times students come and go from campus, in-person classes for fall semester will end on Nov. 24 and resume on Jan. 25. Danko said this change was the “absolute right decision.” 

Danko has also decided to extend the campus-wide closure from Dec. 24 to Jan. 11 —  traditionally, Butler has been closed from Dec. 24 to the first working day after Jan 1. During this recess, offices will be closed for business, but essential workers will remain on campus. 

Danko has also given employees five days of paid time off to be used between Nov. 24 and when students return on Jan. 25. This is an effort to recognize that many employees have been working overtime since Butler’s hiring freeze was put in place, and to de-densify shared campus spaces.

Although Butler’s hiring freeze is still in place, there are a few key positions pertaining to diversity, equity and inclusion that Danko is in the middle of hiring right now — the vice president of human resources and two staff positions in the Efroymson Diversity Center. These positions already existed and were previously vacated over the course of several years, so Danko said they will be “budget neutral.” The vice president of human resources role will be a cabinet-level position, and Butler has hired the executive search firm Isaacson Miller to complete the hiring search in the next three to four months. 

Once hired, the vice president of human resources will help lead the president’s new DEI advisory group in conjunction with Frank Ross, the vice president for student affairs, as well as provost Kate Morris. According to Danko’s Oct. 7 campus-wide email, this advisory group — which consists of students, staff, faculty and alumni — will coordinate DEI initiatives around campus and allocate the $200,000 in Danko’s newly-established DEI Innovation fund. 

In addition to the money allocated for the Hub for Black Affairs and Community Engagement, the DEI Innovation fund brings the total funding for DEI initiatives to around $500,000. The funds are coming from university budget reserves that have accumulated over time, which the president has the ability to allocate. 

Danko has also convened a task force to evaluate the role of BUPD on campus. In a progress update, the committee said they have developed objectives to understand the problems surrounding BUPD. 

“Part of the way they’re approaching this, and I like the way they’ve thought about it, is that, how would you design BUPD if the university was starting from scratch?” Danko said. “What should its mission be? Its structure? What’s the role for the campus community?” 

The task force is now developing a survey to gain understanding and input from the Butler community. Danko said the task force will use that information to create recommendations regarding BUPD, which he will then start to address. 

Additionally, as the Nov. 3 presidential election is quickly approaching, Danko will be giving a university update address on Oct. 30. Danko said he tries not to get political, and that his job is to support all positions. 

“I think the big message that has to come from me is you’ve got to respect all opinions,” Danko said. “…We also have to be open-minded that it could go either direction and affects people in either direction.”

Danko said this Oct. 30 address will give him the opportunity to speak about unity and respect for each other prior to the election.

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