Chancellor’s Message to Students
Let me first express to all of you my best wishes for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I hope your time with loved ones and sharing in the comfort of family and friends will provide a respite from the tense weeks of school work and politics we’ve just been through. I shared some comments with faculty and staff two weeks ago on the day following the election and wanted to share those thoughts and a few others with all of our students here. It’s an appropriate time to reaffirm our values as a learning community.
Whatever your politics, we see a country that is fractured, in which the political discourse has turned from negative to vitriolic, where civil discourse is not valued, where intellectualism seems to be distrusted and scorned, and where political progress, based on compromise, seems to be held hostage by obstructionism and stalemate. In that climate, I know many students, faculty, and staff sought to make a difference. They volunteered for campaign work, or worked, as I did, as a voter protection advocate. You canvassed neighborhoods to get out the vote, and you fought for social and economic justice. I thank each of you for your efforts on behalf of democracy.
Now, the election is over and emotions for many are raw and tensions are high. Some of you may feel that the election has been a betrayal of our values as a nation and a people. We may feel demagoguery has won, that hate and fear have won. We’ve seen news reports of real or perceived threats and violence toward people based upon their religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or sexual identity. In fact, The Southern Poverty Law Center has counted reports of more than 700 cases of hateful harassment, intimidation, or violence in the U.S. since Election Day. Many of the perpetrators specifically proclaimed that their actions were related to the election. Therefore, as Chancellor, I am proud to have been one of 110 college and university leaders across the country to have signed the Presidents’ Message to President-Elect Trump asking that he specifically disavow support for these hateful actions and walk back much of the rhetoric of his campaign.
It’s also appropriate that I now reaffirm our commitment to provide a safe and respectful learning environment in which we can engage in the free exchange of ideas, even unpopular ideas, where all students can learn, thrive, and grow free of threats, harassment, or violence based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, veteran status, or any other protected classification. A violation of these principles is a violation of our University policies for which corrective action will follow. It may also be a violation of hate-crime laws. The University also commits to protecting its students, faculty, and staff from guests, visitors, or other parties on our premises who violate these policies. If you experience harassment or discrimination, report it to your campus provost or the University Counsel’s office (603-283-2436). Any such incidents will be immediately investigated and dealt with according to law and policy.
Schools and colleges have a special role to play in times of national turmoil. It is here that free inquiry and democratic questioning is protected. It is here that we are taught to pursue facts, question simple answers, stand up against hate speech, and teach tolerance and human dignity. I am heartened by the many dialogues underway this past week and going forward on our Antioch campuses and in our programs. I encourage each of you, regardless of your political affiliation, to participate in those forums. Please make use of our campus resources if you might find them helpful. Also know that I am monitoring events across the higher education landscape, including calls for sanctuary on campuses and the various approaches universities are exploring to protect their students.
For those who were disappointed with the election results, we must remember, America is bigger than one election cycle, and democracy is stronger than any single candidate or President. I encourage you all to continue to work for social, economic, and environmental justice, to engage in civic debate on issues, to support local and state efforts to elect effective leaders, to work on voter registration initiatives, and to join efforts to move this country forward. As Secretary Clinton remarked in her concession speech, democracy isn’t something that happens every four years. It’s an ongoing and noble struggle and our duty as citizens. For those of you who are feeling despair, let that despair turn to resolve and fire. Let it strengthen your convictions.
Antioch University’s commitment to inclusion, free-thinking, and social justice has been steadfast throughout our 164-year history. We will continue to be that force. Our commitment to teaching students the practice of leading positive change and our impact on effecting social, economic, and environmental justice in this country, and the world, is more important than ever. Our Antiochian values must, and will, continue to strengthen America.
Again, have a very happy and restful Thanksgiving holiday weekend with your families and friends.
William R. Groves. J.D.