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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer


President Conboy releases email in defending against accusations

Saint Mary’s College President Katie Conboy released an email Tuesday afternoon with the subject “Strengthening Our Bonds” and included a response to “misinformation” circulating around campus. The email specifically focused on topics regarding Saint Mary’s administration, Board of Trustees and faculty that Conboy says “contradicts and diminishes the positive campus experience [students] are enjoying.”

“To be clear: even unintentional misinformation hurts these valued members of our community, and I take seriously my responsibility to correct it,” she said in the email. 

Conboy took issue with information stemming from last November about the now-rescinded nondiscrimination story, stating that it was released before the Board of Trustees “were ready” to release a statement. The updated wording of the policy was originally published on the Saint Mary’s official website in June 2023. She wrote in her email the policy “is no longer on the table.”

“I hope this might help any members of our extended community who have lingered in that moment to work towards the unity we seek and to accept that the Board acknowledged mistakes and apologized for them in December,” she wrote.

Conboy later elaborated on other “primary examples of misinformation” further in her email.

The first statement Conboy refuted is the alleged loss of a Catholic identity on campus. She pointed to a letter written by the president of the Sisters of the Holy Cross Sister M. Veronique (Wiedower), CSC ’70, which was a response to an earlier Observer article about the newly established Loretto Trust. 

She then responded to an allegation tailored towards the educational programs offered on campus. She said the “Avenue curriculum is under construction” and will implement general education requirements. She also said the currently offered courses on campus are “fully in line” with various other Catholic liberal arts colleges.

“Saint Mary’s will continue to require coursework in theology, religious studies and philosophy, all of which are foundational in the Catholic intellectual tradition,” Conboy wrote.  

She also said individuals who brought alleged statements about “inappropriate and unsuitable materials in their courses” have not enrolled or read the course materials she referred to. 

“We will protect the academic freedom of faculty members to choose the texts, materials, and methodologies they utilize in their areas of expertise,” she said.

Conboy continued to counter accusations by references a letter sent to the Board of Trustees claiming the school lost 87 students from the freshman class during this 2023-2024 school year. She said the retention rate between the fall and spring semester was 98%, a record high in recent years.

Lastly, Conboy commented on the accusation that the College fell behind in its fundraising efforts for the current school year. In response, she stated the 2024 Donor Challenge raised the largest amount in the history of its conception. She also mentioned the College is in a “quiet phase of a comprehensive campaign,” and this campaign has “already exceeded” the total of any other SMC campaign. Conboy compared the endowment fund’s growth from June 2020 of $199.2 million to their last quarterly report of $323.4 million. 

She asked students to reach out to the College if they would like clarification on information they may hear in passing and advertised news sources about events happening on campus provided by Saint Mary’s. These sources include their digital newsletter, SMC Stories, their alumnae digital newsletter, Bridge, and an upcoming series of webinars, an idea that came out of listening sessions held in January and February.

“I hope we can move together into the future with a continued commitment to seek the truth and to use it to strengthen our bonds,” Conboy said.