Case Western Reserve University sign in front of Adelbert Hall covered in snow

CWRU joins Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative

Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Hillel are among nearly 20 university-Hillel partners selected to participate in  Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative (CCI) cohort for the 2021-22 academic year.

Working with a group of 19 other higher education institutions—including New York University and Northwestern University—CCI partners university administrations with local Hillel organizations to learn tools and best practices to prevent and confront antisemitism on campus.

“This initiative presented a great opportunity to proactively increase our collective understanding of the needs Jewish students have as a community on campus,” said Jared Isaacson, executive director of the Cleveland Hillel Foundation. “The highly selective program offered us a unique experience as Cleveland Hillel to work alongside our CWRU partners to increase overall education and understanding around issues of concern for Jewish students today–especially as it relates to antisemitism in our communities and on campuses across the country.”

First piloted in 2020, the year-long cohort experience is meant to broaden institutions’ existing commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, recognizing that Jewish students need to be supported as part of these broader efforts. This year’s cohort will adopt a similar model as the pilot year, focusing on education and relationships, along with campus climate assessments, best practices and policies, and action plans to meaningfully improve.

To date, staff representatives from Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Hillel have been participating in webinars and workshops with Hillel International and the other cohort institutions in preparation for the development of their draft action plan due to Hillel International this spring—a process students will have the opportunity to contribute to.

“The initial plan is for students to have the opportunity to provide feedback,” said Greg Harris, senior associate dean of students. “We hope they’ll share their concerns and experiences through campus climate and student-focused surveys, focus groups, and other data points that will enable us, institutionally, to proactively adapt and mitigate.”

CWRU’s CCI team includes Jared Isaacson, Cleveland Hillel Foundation executive director; Lou Stark, vice president for student affairs; Robert Solomon, vice president for the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO); Michael Bustamante, director of diversity and strategic initiatives, OIDEO; Gabrielle Lincoff, senior counsel and deputy risk management officer; and Greg Harris, senior associate dean of students. This month the group began working on an action plan, which they hope to be able to share with the campus community by fall 2022.

The action plan—which the group is drafting—will focus on providing learning opportunities for the campus community about Jews and antisemitism, increasing the university’s partnership and connection with the Cleveland Jewish community, and cultivating a more welcoming campus for all students.