(Sept. 23, 2017) Today marks one week since the tragic death of Scout Schultz. I bear that burden, not only as Georgia Tech’s president, but also as a father and a grandfather. I have been in higher education for 38 years at five universities. Losing a student, particularly under such tragic circumstances, is every leader’s nightmare. A number of you have shared similar thoughts.
As we began the process of working through the events of this past week, I have heard from many individuals and groups both within the Georgia Tech community and from the community at large. As we are all grieving and reflecting, it is imperative that we come together to shape the best path forward. There continue to be unanswered questions and details surrounding Scout Schultz’s death. We will have to wait to receive the final report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) for the full details and answers. However, as we strive to respond to recent events in a constructive manner, there are some immediate steps we can take.
Over the past week, I have solicited input from a broad range of individuals and groups with various perspectives, and will continue to do so. I met with a diverse group of elected student leaders representing various student organizations, including both the undergraduate and graduate Student Government Association presidents. My main goal was to encourage dialogue and feedback, and to listen in order to gain insight from students’ unique perspectives. In addition, I have received input from a number of other groups, including both faculty and student organizations, and will be meeting with them in the coming week. I am finding these continuing discussions to be very helpful. I believe that the concerns raised by the student leaders, faculty, and others can be placed into four broad categories – student mental health, including a focus on both counseling and psychiatric services; campus culture; LGBT+ community issues; and campus safety.
Based upon the discussions already held and those I will be having in the next few days, I will be appointing, within the week, four Institute-wide “Action Teams,” each focusing on one of these four areas. These Action Teams will be responsible for further identifying concerns, issues, and potential solutions, along with additional resource needs. They will include students, faculty, staff, and outside experts as needed. The Action Teams will be asked to submit a series of recommendations by November 1, so that implementation can begin and a preliminary progress report can be completed before the end of the semester. It is my expectation that the recommendations of the Action Teams will be a continuation and expansion of the work we have done in the areas mentioned, along with new insights and initiatives.
We have received a great outpouring of offers for support this week. In addition to our ongoing institutional support for these important areas, I am taking immediate steps to establish a fund through the Georgia Tech Foundation whereby donors can make monetary contributions that will be utilized for mental health initiatives and other campus wellness programs for our students, faculty, and staff; and for additional training needs of our Campus Police. An initial commitment of a $1 million endowment to support these efforts has been received, and we will continue to raise private gifts.
Many of our best achievements here at Georgia Tech are the result of campus leadership teaming with elected student representatives, representative faculty and student groups, and other interested parties to identify and address challenges in a constructive manner. We seek a culture in which our community can flourish and be fulfilled emotionally, physically, professionally, socially, and spiritually. I have no doubt that we can continuously improve the campus environment and the health and well-being of our entire community, and I look forward working together with you to do so.
G. P. “Bud” Peterson