Dear Members of the University Community,
Over the past two weeks, a number of events have beset our country that have saddened hearts and troubled our souls. A number of you have contacted me and shared the weariness you feel amid bitter rhetoric and profound grief. Most recently, the killings of our Jewish sisters and brothers who gathered to worship in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh have staggered us. We share the grief felt by the Jewish community, and I believe that hatred against one group of citizens is an assault on us all. This tragedy calls us to reflect and to respond.
I repeat the invitation that Campus Ministry and Silicon Valley Hillel have already extended to attend the Prayer Vigil tomorrow, Wednesday, October 31, at 4 pm in the Mission Gardens. We shall remember the victims from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and stand in solidarity with all who grieve this great sorrow. We shall affirm our hope for and commitment to a life of greater harmony, respect, and understanding.
Previously, we read with dismay about the mailing of pipe bombs to prominent Americans in acts that hatred inspired. People from other nations who are fleeing poverty and violence have frightened some in our nation. Other examples exist, but you are aware of the tensions gripping our country. Sadly, campaign rhetoric from both major political parties has provided little respite from vitriol and few examples of appeals to our better nature. Given this environment, one can grasp why members of the LGBTQ community fear the leaked plans from Washington DC to constrict legal protections that have protected them in recent years.
We who profess a belief in the mission and values of this University have long treasured the school’s commitment to social justice rooted in a deep religious sensibility. Jesuit education grounds itself in the commitment to the perfectibility and improvement of the human person, both individually and in society. We all believe in the power of education to develop human potential, improve society, advance knowledge, and promote human rights. Whatever our spiritual traditions, we can embrace the importance of the human dignity of individuals born in the image of the divine creator. If we seek to recognize these fundamental shared values, so much more unites us than divides us, no matter our various differences or occasional disagreements.
Our Campus Climate Survey identified areas in which we need to improve our academic community. No one should feel excluded, experience aggression, or feel unsupported – and yet significant numbers of respondents reported their encounters with an unwelcome climate. Our attitudes and our actions should reflect more clearly our shared ideals. Soon my administration will announce concrete steps to improve campus life so that differences can be recognized, explored, and embraced. Our attention to our community is one step towards changing the national mood from hatred and bitterness to civil discourse and respect for all peoples of our country.
Michael E. Engh, S.J.