Dear students, faculty, and staff,
And just like that, here we are once again at the start of a new year. I hope you had a chance during the past several weeks to slow down, take a breath, and focus on the things that are most important to you and that bring you joy and fulfillment. I know many of you were hard at work throughout the holiday season, keeping our campuses going with your mission-critical contributions. To you, I offer a heartfelt “thank you” on behalf of our entire community. I hope that you’re able to carve out some time for your personal enjoyment and rest soon.
January is a time for new beginnings as we turn the calendar to a fresh page for 2024, get back into the classroom for the start of the spring semester, and renew our commitment to our personal, academic, and professional goals in the new year. This is also a time for reflection for all of us, as individuals and as a community.
There’s no way around it; the end of 2023 was turbulent. The world is still roiling with the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, a tragedy that has affected many members of our community personally and deeply. Events that have taken place both globally and on our campus have shaken our faith and tested our resilience. I have been proud of how the vast majority of our WashU community has come together with grace, understanding, and respect for one another, even amid strong emotions and, at times, passionate disagreement. It has been a painful time, but one that has inspired us to reaffirm our core values – chief among them our rejection of discrimination, intimidation, or harassment in any form, particularly antisemitism or Islamophobia – and to make clear that we are a place that fiercely defends free expression, but does not tolerate threatening speech.
As an institution of higher learning, we are giving careful consideration to how best to engage our community on difficult topics through our academic mission, by creating opportunities for learning, listening, and constructive dialogue. Details will be shared soon about events that will take place during the spring semester to facilitate the thoughtful exchange of ideas.
Our commitment to our values and our mission will remain critical in the new year, perhaps even more so as world events continue to evolve, and as we enter a presidential election year in the United States. While we certainly revere the democratic process and encourage everyone to participate as they see fit, we also can reasonably expect that the political climate in our country may at times get contentious and divisive in the coming months. Whatever may come, we must recommit ourselves to upholding our defining principles of mutual respect, constructive dialogue, and thoughtful engagement. We will not always agree, but we must always be civil. That’s the bare minimum of what we should expect of each other. This is always true, but particularly relevant during times of conflict or distress. WashU is known as a place of camaraderie, respect, and a mutual commitment to the growth and success of every individual. It’s imperative that we remember who we are as a community.
To our students, welcome back. We missed you during break. And to our entire community, here’s to a new beginning and a fresh page. Let’s make it a great year.
Andrew D. Martin