To the Clark Community:
The challenges during the 2020-21 academic year, soon coming to a close, have been profound. We are, more than a year later, still managing through the pandemic. A year ago today, the horrific murder of George Floyd commanded our nation’s attention to ongoing anti-black incidents of police brutality and systemic racism more broadly. The January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the killings of AAPI individuals in March, and most recently the tragedy unfolding in Israel and Palestine have been deeply troubling. All of these events have impacted members of our community and led to upset, anger, frustration, and outrage. The challenge of any of these is monumental, but when taken together it has been truly overwhelming. The incidents are searing, emotions understandably have run high and deep, and we are struggling to process it all.
Many in our community are hurting and afraid. They deserve our support and understanding. The rhetoric in campus conversations and on social media around these issues has sometimes been heated and raw, and could suggest an unwillingness to engage in dialogue, education, and empathy. This serves only to nurture a community of opposition rather than one of greater understanding and appreciation of each other, even as we may continue to disagree.
As a research institution, our core mission is to empower our students to explore, to learn, to discover, and – yes – to challenge conventional thinking. Open-mindedness, even when we hold strong views, as well as a willingness to listen, is fundamental to deepening understanding. In confronting challenges, large and small, universities are most impactful when we create opportunities to broaden our perspectives and bridge differences. We need to engage each other around the toughest, most complex issues, precisely because of their complexity and the ways in which they impact us individually and collectively. We need to encourage and facilitate the brave exchange of ideas with honesty and civility. We need to work together to overcome what divides us if we are to advance toward the inclusive institution we strive to be.
I write then to call on us all to do our part to restore and strengthen the fabric of our community. Without a sense of obligation to each other and active, intentional engagement, and open discourse, we cannot fulfill our highest aspirations as a learning community.
David Fithian ’87