March 2, 2017
Dear Campus Community,
Earlier today, a threat of bias-based violence was found written on the wall of a bathroom in the library. That is correct – another threat. In our library. On our campus.
This time a different group was threatened. But to me, this is the same message – a message of hate. A message of intolerance. A message in opposition to everything we at Vassar believe.
In recent days we have seen hateful and violent speech aimed at various groups and individuals based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and ethnic/cultural background. Details on each incident are at the Bias Incident Log.
Many of you have asked what we are doing. In each case the Bias Incident Response Team, Safety & Security, and the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department have responded. A police investigation is continuing.
Moreover, we are moving forward with specific security-related capital improvements recommended by our safety experts. And, we are contracting an outside hate crimes expert.
There are, as always, several resources at Vassar available to assist students. These include the Dean of Students and Residential Life staff, the Campus Life and Diversity Offices, the Title IX Office, Counseling Services, and the Dean of Studies Office for academic support.
As important as all of these responses, though, is the response from you – our students, faculty and staff. We’ve had a sit-in. We’ve had a rally. We’ve had a gathering of reconciliation culminating in a walk to “reclaim the library.” We saw students make hundreds of posters of solidarity and librarians create their own posters affirming that their space is for everyone. I personally had 100 students present me with individual letters from students and alums, many of them with specific suggestions on a better way forward.
If the purpose of hate speech is to intimidate, then to me, this is proof these pathetic individuals have failed. Because in the face of individuals filled with hate, we respond. We respond with action, with compassion, and with strength. And that, to me, is a far stronger message than anything that can be scrawled on a bathroom wall.