November 03, 2023

Care and Concern for Our Community

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Over the last few weeks, I have heard from students, staff, faculty, alumni, and parents expressing concern regarding the violence in the Middle East and its repercussions, including fear over increased antisemitism and anti-Muslim sentiment. The safety and well-being of our campus community will always be my highest priority. I want you to know, I have heard your concerns. The leadership team, faculty, staff, and I remain committed to listening to you and meeting with you as we manage through these difficult times.

Among the greatest challenges of leadership right now is reckoning with the deep divisions that exist in our community with respect to long and complex histories. I have been asked on more than one occasion to take a specific stance to condemn aspects of the violence in the Middle East, requests that have come from profoundly different, and conflicting, perspectives. I completely understand and empathize with those who hold strong opinions, emotions, and concerns for their loved ones, family members, and homelands.

My primary focus must be the well-being of our community and all of its members, and sustaining us in the face of fear and violence and intolerance of all kinds. Discriminatory, violent or threatening acts―verbal, physical, or otherwise―on our campus against any individuals or groups have no place here and will not be tolerated. All members of our community are expected to follow a code of conduct and there are processes in place to address violations of those policies.

It is so difficult to witness some of our community express that they feel unsafe and at odds with one another. I know there are feelings of outrage, hopelessness, and fear. We must do all that we can to support each other during these difficult days and remember that strong communities withstand hard times by making space for the voice of every community member and sustaining a climate where conflicting ideas and experiences can be shared in ways that help us understand each other better. As a liberal arts college, it is essential we remain committed to our values of critical thinking, perspective taking, and working collaboratively in community.

That is why I ask that we engage in thoughtful, meaningful dialogue about what divides and polarizes us and find the common ground that will support and connect us. We must discuss these issues in our classrooms, at gatherings, and in appropriate spaces allowing us to learn from one another. We can utilize our model of Community Dialogues as a forum to do so. This is a real-life situation, happening right now, in which we can call on those tenets of dialogue and the commitment to hearing one another, where we have the opportunity to engage with one another and foster greater understanding, together.

In the coming weeks, there will be several opportunities for members of the campus community to learn from each other, including at a faculty-facilitated forum. There will also continue to be spaces made available to reflect on our different experiences and perspectives during small Community Dialogue sessions that are developed collaboratively with stakeholders across campus. The focus will be on demonstrating care, support, and empathy for one another, even when we disagree. Please take advantage of these opportunities to share, listen, and learn, and to put into practice one of our core institutional values: dialoguing across differences in order to build community.

I know some of you are hurting, worried, and frustrated with what is unfolding in the Middle East, as well as other areas around the world where people are victims of violence and upheaval. I am too.

We can and must work together to ensure that members of our community can learn, teach, and work in an environment where everyone feels included, safe, and cared for.

I am absolutely committed to leading that effort.



Robin H. Holmes-Sullivan