Speeches & Writings

Our path forward

Dear Washington University community, 

This has been a tumultuous time for our WashU community.  And unfortunately, we know it’s not over.  Tensions remain very high within and outside of our campus – here in St. Louis and beyond – as we all continue to grapple with serious, high-stakes world issues.  There are no easy solutions.

What happened last weekend on our campus was not good for anyone.  We share in the heartache of all who are struggling with the steps we felt necessary to keep our campus safe for the vast majority of our community, who follow our policies and share in our commitment to our work and our mission.  We would have much preferred that those who were arrested Saturday left voluntarily when authorities told them multiple times to disperse.  Unfortunately, they made a different choice, which is regrettable for us all.

WashU has a long, proud history of encouraging and supporting free expression.  It is a defining characteristic of who we are as an academic institution.  Our commitment is firm; however, it does have its limits.  It always has.  We do not allow anyone – particularly individuals who are not directly affiliated with WashU – to violate our policies, create chaos, instill fear in our community, and prevent us from engaging in our regular educational activities and campus life.  We stand firm in our resolve to take action when individuals inside or outside of our community do any of those things.

Our policies are in place to provide clarity about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. In the event of future protest activity on our campus, let us make our stance clear:

  • We allow peaceful protest.  We do not allow activities that disrupt our ability to fulfill our institutional mission.  
  • Marching peacefully through campus is allowed.  Blocking entrances or walkways is not. Amplified sound also is not allowed.
  • Gathering to listen to speeches is allowed. Pitching tents and setting up an encampment are not.  
  • Chanting and displaying signs are allowed.  Threatening or harassing speech directed at an individual or group is not.  
  • Members of the St. Louis community are allowed to be on campus.  They are not allowed to come here to disrupt our ability to learn or work, or to do harm to our community.
  • Anyone who is asked to leave by the university or law enforcement must leave or risk disciplinary action or, potentially, arrest.  This is never our first or preferred choice. We do not want to have to take this step – with anyone, but particularly our own students, faculty, and staff.  We are deeply saddened that we have ended up in this position in recent weeks.

We continue to work through the disciplinary process as quickly as possible for our students, staff, and faculty who violated our policies last weekend.  These conversations are personal and unique to each individual’s circumstances.  We will work with these community members directly and will not comment publicly about any of the specifics.  We stand firm in our resolve to take these matters seriously, but at the same time, we must acknowledge that these cases are not one-size-fits-all and respond accordingly.

Commencement is just over a week away.  This occasion represents the culmination of a great deal of hard work and sacrifice by our graduates and their families, as well as the faculty who taught them and the staff who supported them. This is always the most celebratory time of the year and our Commencement team is hard at work planning a meaningful event for all of our honorees and their guests.  We all are mindful that the Class of 2024 includes graduating seniors who were deprived of their high school Commencement because of the COVID pandemic.  This was unfair, disappointing, and a genuine loss to students and their families.  We’re hopeful that everyone in the WashU community will do their part to help ensure that these students in particular are able to have at least one graduation that is memorable for the right reasons.

This situation is testing us all.  We’re learning a lot about ourselves and our community.  We have faith that we will pull together – like we always do – and find our way forward.  We are strong and resilient.  Our hope is that we will come out of this with a greater appreciation for all we have and all we mean to each other.


Andrew D. Martin

Anna “Dr. G” Gonzalez
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

Nichol L. Luoma
Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer

Beverly Wendland
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs