Dear Antioch University Community,
As I’m sure you are aware, a mass shooting took place in Dayton, Ohio early this morning, Sunday, August 4 (around 1 am EDT), in a popular restaurant, nightclub, and entertainment area known as the Oregon District. The area is just a few miles from our AU Midwest campus and University central offices in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Many members of our Board of Governors woke up to the news this morning and quickly contacted me to determine if any Antioch community members were directly or indirectly impacted by the shootings. At this time, we know of no such cases. But, this hits home, our hearts ache and we are all concerned.
Just hours earlier, we had held the PhD in Leadership & Change’s annual commencement at the AUM campus. In addition, the PhD program (PhDLC) had just concluded its week-long residency in Yellow Springs, and many of the students, graduates, and family members stayed in hotels in the Dayton area. And of course, a number of Antioch University students and many alumni and staff live in Dayton. There is at least one Dayton victim who was well known to one of our board members. That victim leaves behind a young family, and our hearts go out to her survivors and all other families tragically affected by this senseless and cowardly act of violence.
But, again, at this early time, we are aware of no community members being direct victims of the mass shooting. The PhDLC program has reached out to its students and graduates early this morning with a request for “I’m safe” replies. We will continue to monitor that issue as more facts and names become available. We will continue to monitor the safety of our Antioch University staff, faculty, and students who live in the area.
In the span of 18 hours this weekend, 29 people have been murdered in two mass shootings across this country, one occurring in El Paso, TX, and the other Dayton, OH. Dozens more victims have been shot and seriously injured, some in critical condition. Beginning with the massacre in Las Vegas just two years ago, there have now been 25 mass shootings in the U.S. claiming 232 innocent lives and gravely injuring 377 others.
As Chancellor over the past three years, it has been my position that Antioch University can and must have a public voice on issues that impact our values and our mission for social, economic, or environmental justice. I have exercised the right on numerous occasions. The expression of our values is not confined to the classroom and our audience is not confined to our current students. Institutions in our society have a right, indeed a duty, to speak out on matters deeply impacting our values as an institution and our values as a nation. Four times now in the past three years, I have specifically written about this gun violence epidemic and domestic terrorism. I’m saddened and frustrated to be writing yet again, this time after a tragedy so near home.
The escalating epidemic of gun violence is nothing less than a public health crisis, and hate crimes and domestic terrorism are nothing less than a fundamental attack to our democracy, waged largely by those who identify as white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. This madness is a clear and present danger to our lives, to our democracy, and to Antioch’s mission of social justice — for, without a strong democracy, there can be no social justice. Horace Mann understood that connection and devoted his life to democracy-building through education.
So, with this latest incident so close to home, and with it being within just hours after an attack in El Paso motivated by hate and white nationalist ideology, let me call it out again: Antioch University hereby forcefully and unequivocally proclaims that hatred, bigotry, white supremacy, and white nationalism are abhorrent to our democracy and have no place in America. We must stand up to domestic terrorism. We further proclaim that the epidemic of gun violence must end. We reject the notion that the epidemic of domestic terrorism and gun violence is an inherent and unavoidable cost of securing our Second Amendment rights. It is not. Congress fully has the power, through reasonable and Constitutional measures, to drastically reduce gun violence and eradicate domestic terrorism. It is time they exercise that power. If they fail, it is time we elect those who will.
Finally, as an institution of higher learning that has fought for human rights, civil rights, social and economic justice for over 166 years, we call upon our elected officials to not only denounce acts of violence and domestic terrorism when they occur, but to strongly denounce the ideologies of hate, bigotry, and white nationalism that fuel them. We must promote inclusive communities and a country built on the values of diversity, equity, and equality, the values upon which Horace Mann stood so firmly. To be silent in the face of bigotry is unacceptable.
I encourage each of our community members to be engaged in electoral activism and to do what you can to help build safe and inclusive communities and a strong democracy. I also encourage our faculty and students to engage in discussions about this issue and the public policy implications required to address them. With the encouragement of our Board of Governors, I would also like to explore the opportunity of hosting public forums and symposiums at our campuses that can extend the conversation into our communities. Please look for additional information on these and other ideas and please offer your ideas and suggestions by sending them to me via e-mail. We need and welcome your input.
In the meantime, I will reach out to Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton to offer our support in helping this community heal and keep you posted on any material developments related to the Antioch community.
William R. Groves, JD