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Statement from Chair of the Faculty Beth Moracco about the necessity to foster a climate of empathy and respect on campus

Amidst the turmoil of the past seven months, we as a campus community have had differences of opinion, which is both inevitable and acceptable. Despite sometimes holding opposing views, we have continued to share common ground on certain core values, including our belief in freedom of expression, a desire for peace and safety on our campus, and the conviction that violence, intimidation, and degradation of any members of the campus community are unacceptable. On Tuesday morning, I was one of several faculty members who met with the interim chancellor and the provost to discuss the campus protests and the institutional response. The conversation included harrowing accounts of intimidation and violence that some students and others experienced on the last day of classes.

On Wednesday evening, several university administrators and staff members were verbally harassed and physically intimidated as they left South Building to go home. A group of people who had been demonstrating in front of South Building gathered at each exit and confronted these employees by blocking their paths away from the building, jostling and shoving, shouting taunts and epithets through megaphones at close range, throwing objects, and in some cases surrounding and following their cars, pounding on windows and doors. I have spoken with some of the people targeted by these behaviors who told me that they felt terrified and that they feared for their safety and for the safety of others present.

Photos, videos, and personal accounts of Wednesday’s incident are unnerving, as are the images of students and other protesters being dragged, shoved, and pepper-sprayed last week. Neither of these incidents should be repeated on our campus. Regardless of the motivations, any violence on our campus is traumatic and antithetical to the climate of constructive discourse we seek to foster.

In my communication last week, I wrote that our campus community is in a fragile state, and that we must find ways to repair our sense of trust, safety, and community, irrespective of our views about the campus protests and the response to them. Violence and vitriol bring us no closer to healing. Our administrators, faculty, staff, students, and other community members must be willing to engage with each other with respect and empathy as we move ahead with the challenging work of de-escalating tensions and constructively communicating with each other to rebuild our community. Each and all of us have a role in this repair and reconciliation process.

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