Throughout his first-year, Miami and Oxford have gotten well acquainted with Gregory Crawford, Miami’s 22nd president, and his wife and university ambassador, Renate.
We know we’ll see him at sporting events, concerts and club functions. We often spot him biking around campus. We know he’s embraced using the phrase “love and honor” since his first day.
We know even his new dog, Ivy.
In his first year, Crawford had the opportunity to celebrate his inauguration in Millett Hall and his first graduation ceremony at Yager Stadium, travel to Oklahoma to participate in the Miami tribe’s Winter Gathering and cram seemingly every student-centric event into his schedule.
But, in the same year, Crawford also faced a campus grieving the death of first-year student Erica Buschick in January. He had to address community-wide criticism of student drinking at a university where he had only been a semester.
Overall, Crawford said, he feels confident coming into his second year, but the university’s perennial challenges — promoting diverse interaction, eliminating sexual assault, addressing dangerous drinking — aren’t easily solved. Crawford, though, believes the university is heading in the right direction.
TMS: At the time of our first interview, only a month and a half into the school year, you were still familiarizing yourself with the Miami and Oxford communities.
Now, a year later, what has changed about your initial impressions or expectations? What have you learned about Miami or Oxford that has surprised you? How are you approaching this position differently now after your year of experience?
GC: When I came here, I knew it was a large university, of course, and I knew a lot about the academic departments and the divisions, but what I was really surprised by was the scale of the number of student clubs, and how much a part of the Miami experience they are. Miami has everything that one could want in a university — they have the programs, fantastic students, passionate and compassionate faculty members. It’s been a very exciting first year, but it had its challenges. The student death [of first-year Erica Buschick] was just devastating to me. It was very sad to all of us, and we need to do better about health and student wellness, and we’re trying to do better.
The year was nonstop. I tried to get out and do everything I possibly could. I tried my best, and there’s no way I can do everything. I feel really at home here. I feel very comfortable and very confident this year. It will probably prove to be equally busy, I’m sure.
TMS: On Oct. 18, The Miami Student is hosting a debate with the nine candidates vying for Oxford City Council’s four open seats. If you were to ask those candidates one question, what would that be?
GC: I’ve had the opportunity in my career to hire a lot of leaders, and I always ask the same question: If you’re going to be a servant leader, if you’re going to lead a life of higher purpose and work on the city council, I really want to know what principles drive your decision-making. My question to them is: What are your personal core values? The follow-up question would be, if you think about those core values, how would they help you to advance the Miami and Oxford town-gown relationship?
TMS: As you said in our interview last year, “One sexual assault is one too many.” On Sept. 22, two sexual assaults were reported on campus within just hours of each other. Two others were reported Sept. 2. Despite efforts, these assaults unfortunately do happen. What is being done to improve the processes that follow sexual assault reports and to prevent future assaults?
GC: This past year, we have improved our Title IX Protocol for students, and reports will be investigated through OESCR now before the disciplinary hearing, so we think that investigation process will be improved. We’ve increased bike patrols and foot patrols of police officers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. We’re looking to see how we can sustain that.
We’re getting more aggressive on the Step Up training. The Climate Survey is pretty holistic, and so that is also a place where we’ll find out other aspects of sexual and interpersonal violence. We’re really dedicated to this. We have to keep improving the processes.
TMS: This is a national conversation, particularly with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s decision to rescind guidelines set for how universities should handle sexual assault cases. Where is Miami placing itself on this issue when the country’s administration is still debating how these processes should function at universities?
GC: Right now, we’re keeping where we’ve been, so we’re going to keep improving that process, and we’ll go from there.
TMS: Miami’s first-year class is its most domestically diverse yet. The international student population also rose, despite predictions of a post-election dip.
However, as Miami becomes more diverse, diverse interaction remains low. College admissions company The Princeton Review recently ranked Miami University as having one of the lowest levels of interaction between students of different races and economic backgrounds. What is the university doing to not only make the student body more diverse but encourage that interaction?
GC: I charged the Presidential Task Force with developing a new diversity statement, and it’s the university’s values and aspirations for diversity and inclusion. They did a fantastic job. They got input and socialized it around campus. That, I think, was a wonderful exercise for us because it was a statement about the value of diversity for our university but also allowed those conversations to happen….We’re doing stuff, but so is everyone else on campus. So many other organizations and units and departments are contributing to this effort.
For programming this year, we have the Provost Inclusion Series and the Accessibility Symposium. “Dear World” is coming back, which I think was phenomenal last year. It allowed people to be vulnerable and share some stories that hadn’t even been shared before.
TMS: Last year, the Miami and Oxford community took a serious look at high-risk student drinking. Conversations happened on many levels with administrators, faculty, students, police and others. The Miami Student created a documentary and wrote a several-weeks-long series devoted to issues of student drinking.
The question remains, though: now what? What is the plan going forward this year, and what have you personally done in the last several months to address the issue?
GC: I want to congratulate The Miami Student for that documentary. It was much needed, and I think just an unbelievable educational tool for students and I hope you continue to get it out there, because it’s super important. We need to make progress, and we need to change culture.
Our biggest risks are alcohol and addiction, sexual and interpersonal violence and mental health and, oftentimes, they’re connected. We’re hiring more counselors, and we’re actually hiring more staff on the Tri-Health side, as well. I think we’re going to see progress there.
We’ve had a lot of discussions with national and state experts. The Haven started an outpatient substance abuse treatment program in Oxford this fall. Students who visit the student health center will be screened for possible substance abuse concerns now. We’ve added hometowns and birthdates to student IDs.
Culture change takes a lot of time and we are putting in place safety aspects and also aspects of improved processes for student health. Every year, a new freshman class comes in, so we have the opportunity to set a tone and expectation.