Dear Washington University students, faculty, and staff,
The past few weeks have been an extraordinarily difficult time for the WashU community, our nation, and our world. As we continue to process and reckon with the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza, this situation is taking a toll on us all. And I’m afraid some cracks are starting to form in our usually tight-knit community. I’m writing to you today about some serious concerns that I cannot let go unaddressed.
Free expression is a cornerstone of WashU as an institution of higher learning. We protect it fiercely. At the same time, we must recognize that it has limits. We will not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or threatening behavior.
I was deeply disturbed to learn that during gatherings on campus in the past week, antisemitic phrases were chanted and written on signs. I’ve also been made aware that antisemitic and Islamophobic language has been used by members of our community toward each other and in comments on social media and online communities. As a community, I believe we are better than this. I urge you, before engaging in difficult interactions, ask yourself: Who are we, and who do we wish to be?
So there’s no room for doubt, let me state, unequivocally: At WashU, we stand against antisemitism. We stand against Islamophobia. We condemn rhetoric that supports either of these or any type of discrimination. This type of language is divisive, it stokes fear, and it stifles constructive dialogue. We must call it out when we see it if we want our campus to be a place where all can express themselves without fearing for their own safety or security.
There are no easy answers here. Our commitment to free expression is paramount. Our support for our community also is unwavering and we will address incidents that are in opposition to our core values and our policies.
Most fundamentally, we will only succeed by working together toward a common goal of understanding, empathy, and concern for all members of our WashU community. We are creating opportunities for dialogue in the coming weeks, which will be one important step forward. Beyond that, we all will have a role to play in building a stronger community. I hope you will join me in this important work.
Andrew D. Martin