July 12, 2021: Fran’s House Incident — Moving Forward

Dear Bucknellians,

I write with a final update regarding the Fran’s House incident of May 13. After reviewing the facts, it is ever more clear that we must recommit to a focus on the important and necessary work of creating a sense of belonging for everyone in the Bucknell community.

As an immediate action, I am making Tower House the permanent campus affinity house for LGBTQ+ students and their allies, per the request of its residents. The building will be renamed Fran’s House, and we have begun renovations to create a space where the students feel ownership and recognition as an integral part of our community. More extensive renovations will be completed in the summer of 2022.

Additionally, I have asked Provost Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak to lead important and frank discussions within our community about making long-overdue, systemic changes so that all Bucknell students, particularly those from underrepresented groups, feel respected, safe and secure, and can thus experience Bucknell as their own.

The Investigation

As I earlier indicated, I will be as candid and transparent about the results of the investigation as I am able under University policies.

Informed by the scale and timing of the investigation, we hired the law firm Cozen O’Connor to conduct more than 40 interviews just a few days before Commencement, completed an alternative student disciplinary process, and imposed appropriate sanctions.

There are three major findings to report:

  • The external investigation confirmed that the behavior of the students involved clearly damaged the sense of safety and belonging for the residents of Fran’s House, especially given their repeated requests for the students to leave, which were ignored by some until Public Safety arrived.
  • While acknowledging the impact described above, the investigation found no evidence that the students outside of Fran’s House on May 13 were motivated by bias against the residents and their affinity as an LGBTQ+ community. Details regarding the individual consequences for the students who sought entry to Fran’s House will not be shared per University policy.
  • Regarding our Department of Public Safety, the independent investigation highlighted the need for additional practical training and a cultural assessment of this office. We are working to engage recognized experts in the field of campus safety to review our institutional practices and to assess our campus culture in regard to Public Safety. Details regarding the individual consequences for the officers involved will not be shared per University policy.

The Work Ahead

Bucknell has thrived for 175 years thanks in part to continuous review and assessment by those who care deeply about its future. This has ensured our ability to not only adapt to the times, but also to anticipate societal shifts and adjust in ways that keep the University abreast of changes in higher education as well as the country and the world. While this has been a challenging time, it does provide us an opportunity to take a close look in the mirror, and to decide what we need to do to become the best version of ourselves for current and future students. I welcome the input and involvement of any Bucknellian who would like to contribute to this important effort.

Thank you for your support as together we strive to be the best possible Bucknell — one that must create a genuine sense of belonging for all.

My best,