Seton Hall’s Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) is approaching a final draft of the University’s five-year strategic plan after a draft was distributed to students in a campus-wide email on May 4.
The plan, which has been in development since the fall, has been repeatedly cited by University officials as shaping their response to recent events such as the outbreak of COVID-19 and the protests over police brutality and the killing of George Floyd.
“It is a time of both challenge and opportunity in higher education,” the University’s website says. “Under the leadership of a new president and 10 years after its last planning process, Seton Hall has a pivotal opportunity to reimagine its future and formulate a new, aspirational strategic plan that articulates a pathway forward that is fully aligned with its Catholic identity and foundational mission.”
The SPC and the University administration have repeatedly emphasized the importance of the strategic plan in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
Dr. Alyssa McCloud, co-chair of the SPC, said that the COVID-19 plans must conform to the strategic plan.
“The University is now in the process of developing implementation plans nested within the existing strategy framework and in the context of COVID-19 and its impact,” McCloud said in a University press release on May 6, which announced the University’s new contingency planning teams for the fall semester.
The importance of strategic planning was also highlighted in an email to students from the Office of the President on May 4, which included a draft of the plan was sent to the Seton Hall community.
“Because of the pandemic of COVID-19 and its consequences, the University is now engaged in a multi-dimensional planning process that integrates early implementation steps for the new strategic plan with crisis and contingency planning,” the email from President Joseph Nyre’s office said. “The strategic plan serves as a touchstone for contingency planning as the University evaluates and implements the steps necessary to safely and effectively engage and educate students during this uncertain and difficult time.”
However, the draft plan did not appear to contain any overarching goals for the University with regards to crisis response or emergency preparedness.
McCloud said the strategic planning process helped guide the University’s reopening plans.
“Planning for the reopening of Seton Hall was guided by the strategic planning already underway and helped position Seton Hall to be an early responder and leader in the sector as the global pandemic came ashore,” McCloud said. “As the yet-to-be-received guidance from NJ is integrated into the reopening plans, the University will continue to advance implementation planning for the draft strategic framework currently posted on the website.”
Keeling and Associates, a Massachusetts-based consulting firm that has been working on the strategic plan with the SPC since fall 2019, has become very involved with the University’s reopening and contingency planning. Employees of Keeling and Associates are on both of the contingency planning groups that were announced by President Joseph Nyre in an email on May 6.
Another major pillar of the strategic plan will be diversity and inclusion, which has been a topic of discussion at the University in the wake of recent nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
“Diversity, inclusion and social justice are at the heart of… our strategic plan,” Nyre said at a ‘demonstration of solidarity’ event hosted by SGA and the University administration to honor victims of police brutality.
According to McCloud, these ideas have been at the heart of the strategic planning process since its inception.
“Diversity, inclusion and social justice were a university-wide goal announced in the fall of 2019,” McCloud said. “The importance of this focus was reinforced by students, faculty and staff during the strategic planning process and is embedded in the strategic framework, underscoring it will be a constant focus of the University for the next five years.”
It is unclear if any points of the strategic plan will change in light of the recent protests.
The draft plan does contain goals for diversity at the University. One objective listed is to “teach our diverse student body with a comparably diverse faculty.” It is not clear how the University plans to reach this objective.
The strategic plan only outlines the priorities and intentions of the university, and implementation of these priorities will come at a later date, said University spokesperson Laurie Pine.
“The final, approved plan will be shared with the Seton Hall and external communities,” Pine said. “The University then will move into the implementation phase. During this phase, many of the specific details that will bring the plan to life will be developed by working groups.”
When the draft of the strategic plan was sent out to the University, a link to a portal was included where community members could give feedback to the SPC. However, the email from the Office of the President asked that nobody “copy, reproduce, or circulate the draft of the plan to others.”
The strategic planning process began in the fall of 2019. The draft comes after multiple town hall meetings and other programs were hosted for the SPC to gain input from the student body and the Seton Hall community.
“The University has engaged students, faculty and staff in the process,” said McCloud, who signed the email from the Office of the President. “No one was excluded. This is an unprecedented level of transparency and openness.”
Daniel O’Connor can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @ItsDanOConnor.