Open Letter to Our Students
We, the faculty members in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies (Arabic Studies, Classical Studies), write to you at the beginning of this semester and of the new academic year as your teachers and mentors in order to welcome you to our Department if you are new, or to welcome you back if you are returning for another year of study with us. May this fresh start bring you joy in your learning and may it bring you opportunities to discover more about the world and yourselves.
We are also writing to let you know that, as a Department, we denounce the white supremacists who terrorized the University of Virginia Campus and the town of Charlottesville. We believe in academic freedom and in free speech, and we welcome open and free dialogue in our Department and in the courses that we offer. Equally, we believe in a campus community that stands against white supremacy and racism, a community that does not condone violence or other wrongful behavior targeting people or groups of people based on race, color, religion, ethnicity, nationality, immigration status, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability. We affirm those of you in our community who are marginalized and vulnerable. We see you and we are glad that you are part of our community.
Further, it is incumbent on all of us to confront hate and to educate ourselves. We all have biases and we can only benefit by learning to be aware of them as we go about our daily lives. Let us think about ways in which bias, prejudice, microaggressions, racism (both unconscious and institutional), and structural violence occur in our working and living environments, and strive to find means to deal with them constructively and, where necessary, to oppose them. Let us all actively learn how our society has come to marginalize some in order to benefit others. Let us acknowledge and confront these injustices and violations, especially the hidden ones that occur on a daily basis, and thereby foster a more caring, just and peaceful community. Finally, let us seize every opportunity to affirm and embrace the incontrovertible truth that humanity, infinitely rich in its diversity, is essentially one.
One way of overcoming some of our biases and stereotypes is to engage with and celebrate diversity, and our campus offers excellent ways to do exactly that. We are a Department whose faculty is diverse and whose subject matter is also diverse. Further, we are members of a campus community that represents a wide cross-section of humanity, and so we encourage you to reach out and befriend those outside your current circles of friends and associates. We also encourage and invite you to come and talk to any one of us if you feel that you or someone else you know is or may be a target of bias, bigotry, or racism in word or deed. We want you to know that we will listen with empathy and respect your stated wish to keep what you share in confidence.
Be well and be safe!
PS: Here is a useful and short essay put together by the Southern Poverty Law Center: "The Alt-Right on Campus: What Students Need to Know."