Dear friends and colleagues across our University of Michigan community,
Even in this season of celebrations and light, our hearts remain broken by the terrible bloodshed in the Middle East, and the loss of so many innocent lives.
For in Gaza and the West Bank, violence is escalating, bombs are falling and flames are raging. Palestinian civilians are suffering and dying and mourning the loss of those closest to them.
In Israel, families continue to weep for the loss of their loved ones on October 7th, even as so many continue to hope against heart-wrenching hope that those taken hostage by Hamas will be safely returned.
I recognize how grief-stricken, how heartbroken, how enraged so many in our community feel.
For this tempest of war has placed a terrible burden on our students, faculty and staff from our Israeli, Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish, and Arab communities.
Deeply rooted bigotries have produced poisonous fruit. Students have faced intimidation. Faculty members have suffered verbal abuse. And sadly, at times, stereotypes have spoken far louder than truths.
I also recognize that the previous statements of mine did not fully express our heartbreak for the suffering of the innocent people in the Arab and Muslim communities, or our affront at the vandalism of the fliers and posters, which affected Jewish students, Palestinian students, and many other communities.
We will, I will, do better in the future.
Yet no words of mine, no matter how heartfelt, and no statement of mine, no matter how clear, will assuage the heartbreak or bring this terrible war to a close.
So what is our role as a great, pluralistic public university?
I respectfully offer that we must reaffirm our values, and we must show others that there can be, and must be, a better way. We must show the world that here, at the University of Michigan, we can consider issues of great contention with respect, inclusion and integrity.
We must make it clear that racism, antisemitism, and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry have no place on our campus or in our community.
They demean our values.
They debase our university.
They disrespect all religions and cultures.
Even more, we must not permit vigilante tactics – whether they be vandalized fliers, doxing trucks, or unconscionable caricatures or comparisons – to impede our commitment to the freedom of speech, inquiry, and debate, and our dedication to inclusion, pluralism and unity.
Rather, we must reaffirm our commitment to our values of respect and inclusion, equity and diversity. Especially when passions are aroused, we must recommit to heeding the quiet call of civic engagement and citizenship; to listening with empathy, to walking together in humility and to treating each person with deep respect and dignity.
I’m convinced we can lead with our example; that we can show a better way.
So during these dark days of violence, let us renew our commitment to respecting one another, to reaching across our communities, and to creating a campus where all peoples of all backgrounds and faiths can join together in creating a brighter world of peace.