Dear Union College Community Member:
Like you, I have been stunned and sickened by the extraordinary violence and loss of life in Israel and Gaza over the past few days. As President Biden observed yesterday, the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas are the latest appalling chapter in this multigenerational conflict.
The abductions, death, and destruction are heartbreaking. They reflect actions that have no place in a civilized society. Given the magnitude of what has occurred this week, and the dense urban warfare that will likely ensue, I fear there are many dark days ahead.
I know many are hurting at this moment and my thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy, especially those with direct ties to the region. As we all try to regain our emotional footing in the face of what we are witnessing, I want to stress that one of our fundamental responsibilities as a college is to promote the well-being of all of our community members. In that spirit, please know that the College stands ready to provide any support and resources we can to anyone who may need it, for as long as necessary.
In addition to the counseling resources we shared Monday, I would remind everyone that the campus offers a number of places for quiet reflection, including the Nott Memorial, Memorial Chapel, and Jackson’s Garden. In addition, students can reach out to our Office of Intercultural Affairs if they need help finding a location to be alone or to meet in small groups.
Also core to our mission is to provide the knowledge and context that our students will need to enter into - and to eventually help lead – a complex world beset by any number of huge, seemingly intractable, challenges. None are more complex or emotionally charged than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and few provide a greater challenge to global security.
There are no easy answers, and certainly none to be found amid this latest conflict. The sadness, fear, grief, and anger many of us feel now are likely to remain raw for some time, but it is my hope that a time will soon come when there will be opportunities for constructive engagement.
We have an obligation to our students to shed light on this very heated situation through education and an open exchange of ideas. As we have done in previous times of global conflict and societal upheaval, we will explore ways to bring our community together through constructive dialogue and by providing the information and resources necessary for everyone to remain informed on the important issues of our time.
In the meantime, I encourage everyone to embrace our shared values of compassion, empathy, and openness - traits that lie at the core of our strength as a true union of people and perspectives.
Above all, please take care of yourselves and one another in this difficult time, and don’t be afraid to ask for help should you need it.
David R. Harris