President Robert L. Manuel > Notes from Rob > 2023-24 > Our plans for moving forward

Our plans for moving forward

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

We are quickly approaching the end of the spring quarter, which means commencement is around the corner. I hope you are all looking forward to our June ceremonies. This year’s commencement is particularly meaningful for the Class of 2024, as most of our graduating students did not have a high school graduation ceremony due to the pandemic. We’re excited to celebrate with our students and their many proud family members a little less than two weeks from now. 

As the current quarter comes to an end, we also recognize that many in our community have asked for clarity about our path forward following the encampment and what plans we have to engage our community in productive dialogue. 

Before we explain our approach, we want to reiterate a few things that were accomplished during the past few months in dialogue with the various leaders of the coalition around campus.  

Cease fire and divestment

First, the university, in alignment with the Western Province of the Vincentians, called for a mutually agreed upon cease fire. We did so because we recognize the human devastation and humanitarian crises that are occurring in Gaza. In this statement​, we also called for the release of the remaining hostages, as well as for immediate aid and assistance to be delivered to the Palestinians and others in Gaza who are in need. 

Second, we have heard the desire of those protesting to divest from companies that are profiting from the war in Gaza. The claim has been made that DePaul is not living into its Vincentian values when it comes to how we direct our investments in the endowment. To be clear, DePaul does not have direct investments (e.g. stocks, bonds) in its endowment. As such, DePaul has no direct holding in companies profiting from the war in Gaza.
To ensure that even our indirect investments are consistent with our values, when selecting a commingled or mutual fund in which to invest, DePaul considers whether the third-party portfolio manager is a signatory of the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) promulgated by the United Nations. We do this because we are committed to living the Vincentian mission, and we are committed to the non-violent resolution of conflict, whether that is at home or abroad. 

A complete explanation of how our endowment is structured can be found in our letter to the community dated May 6.

When the DePaul Divestment Coalition delivered 10 demands to the university administration at the beginning of the encampment, university leadership and the engagement team created responses to each one and offered additional solutions when clarification was requested. We found immense value in our work with the engagement team, and there were many ideas put forward that will be beneficial for our university. We’re happy to share more about the ideas we intend to pursue. 

Our approach for moving forward

Our plans for moving forward include sharing news from last week’s Board of Trustees meeting.

First, we are happy to rep​ort that the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the budget that SRAC put forward for Fiscal Year 2025. As has been our practice, we will share more details about the budget in the coming days through a separate communication. 

Second, the Board of Trustees endorsed the administration’s call to create a university committee that will formalize our commitment to continuing the dialogue about the war in Gaza, and other complex, difficult issues in our world. In our initial conversation with the student leaders of the DePaul Divestment Coalition, we talked through the idea of establishing such a group on campus that can create understanding and dialogue.

We’re happy to share that Lexa Murphy, dean for the College of Communication, and Guillermo Vàsquez de Velasco, dean for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, have agreed to begin working across the university to identify people and existing organizational entities that will be critical to the success of this committee. 

As part of our interdisciplinary exploration that is central to Designing DePaul, this committee will examine ways the university can invest in programming that fosters dialogue and intellectual engagement with polarizing issues in our society. This group, once selected, will reside inside the HUB center that we are creating as part of Designing DePaul. 

This group will also create a certification process for those wishing to earn credentials in dialogue and mediation. Our hope is that those who receive credentials can be instrumental in working with members of our community through the years as difficult conversations inevitably arise around the world. This group will also help support existing and new programs around the university, with objectives to recraft content for new student orientation, generate university-wide teach-ins, promote connection among all members of our university community, and become role models for engagement at DePaul.  

Due to the significant amount of time and dedication required for this critical work, membership on this committee will be compensated and will represent our diverse interests across the university. A direct call for participation will be offered in the near future. 

In addition to the committee mentioned above, we reaffirm our commitment to:
  • ​Support further conversations about inclusivity in study abroad programming, particularly the First Year Abroad: Jerusalem student abroad program 
  • Create a SWANA Center, as part of our existing work through Designing DePaul
  • ​Supporting the change to existing university policies to include doxing as prohibited behavior
We will share more information about this work as it becomes available. 

Student organization updates

In other university news, DePaul’s Student Government Association completed its 2024 election process last week. Congratulations to Isabella Ali and Samara Smith for being elected to serve as SGA president and vice president. We look forward to working together as part of our continued commitment to upholding shared governance. 

In addition to electing new leadership, SGA placed a referendum on the ballot calling for the university to make its investment portfolio public and to divest from companies doing business in Israel. Of the 21,348 students enrolled at DePaul, 1,970 students participated in this year’s election. 1,785 students voted in favor of the referendum.107 students voted no, and 78 chose not to file a vote on this referendum. 

We recognize and appreciate the work of our students but disagree with their call to divest from Israel. To see our response to the question of divestment and holdings, as well as answers to how our endowment is guided by ethical standards set forward by the United Nations, please see the letter that we shared with the Divestment Coalition leaders and the entire DePaul community on May 6. 

You may also be aware on May 23, eight registered student organizations that were identified as having a role in establishing the encampment received letters from the Dean of Students Office. We would like to emphasize that the goal of this process is to educate our student organizations about university policies and instill an understanding of their responsibilities as part of our DePaul community. When Student Affairs meets with each student group, they will emphasize expectations and understanding around our policies. 

Gene Zdziarski, vice president for Student Affairs, clarified these points in a follow up message sent to the eight student organization presidents and their advisors on May 29. As this process moves forward, we commit to ensuring our student organizations understand and have the full ability to exercise their rights. Our ultimate hope is for the organizations to better understand how university policies help ensure a safe environment where everyone has the opportunity to learn and thrive.  
Towards dialogue and understanding

In our communications over the past months​, we have been clear that voices of dissent are welcome at DePaul – and academic freedom and free speech and expression will be protected. We were also clear that when those actions interfere with our students having full access to their educational pursuits or cross lines to intimidation, hate, or bias that we will act to protect the security and safety of everyone in our community. 

The role of a university is to educate, engage and foster vigorous - though respectful - dialogue on matters of importance. The key to such engagement is civility and approaching difficult discussions with an open mind and an open heart.  We – as members of a broader community – are committed to the free expression of ideas and debate, but we cannot tolerate hate speech that demonizes groups and denies others the rights we claim for ourselves. Given the diversity of the DePaul community, we must guard against replicating the animosities that are prevalent in conflicts overseas here on our campus.

Education has always been a beacon of hope and progress. Your collective dedication to fostering understanding, compassion, and knowledge will help our university persevere and contribute to our promising future, as we proceed along a path to become a national leader in higher education. 


Robert L. Manuel

Salma Ghanem

Sherri Sidler
Executive Vice President and CFO