November 15, 2023

A Letter From President Devereaux - An Invitation into Dialogue

Kent Devereaux

Dear Goucher faculty, staff, and students,

Since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, there has been an upswing in antisemitism, Islamophobia, and interpersonal biased incidents worldwide, leading to a surge in fear and anxiety in many communities. College campuses are especially vulnerable and have become flashpoints amid the war.

I have heard from many members of our community here at Goucher and want to reiterate that Goucher strongly condemns the unprecedented, deadly attack by Hamas terrorists upon Israel, and the ensuing death toll of Palestinian civilians. We stand in firm & and caring support of all members of our community who have friends and family who may be in harm’s way. We understand that everyone will view the events differently, and yet, there is one thing that can unite us all, which is that the murder of innocent people can never be justified. I urge you all to focus on our shared humanity and cultivate empathy for one another's lived experiences.

With the nuanced history of the region and the intersections of religion and culture, there has been a great amount of misinformation, silencing, and worst of all, fear to speak one’s own truth, nervousness about sharing one’s heritage, and anger about not having spaces to offer a different perspective, share narratives, or simply grieve the loss of life.

At Goucher, we can choose to be different. During the past week, there have been several events and communications on our campus expressing a need to feel seen and heard. While we support freedom of expression, we remain committed to keeping our students safe. We encourage students to familiarize themselves with our Demonstration Policy, which communicates expectations and accountability measures. In response to the increasing demonstrations, I, along with many faculty, staff, and students, would like to invite you, our community members, into dialogue with each other.

Our core purpose as a college is not to take a political stance, but to provide opportunities for education, even around challenging and highly divisive topics. Further, as an educational institution, intellectual freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are paramount. We are committed to creating spaces for students, faculty, and staff to dialogue across differences about the conflict and its impact in safe and respectful ways.

On November 8, we held a community conversation with faculty and staff about having difficult dialogues. The Center for Race, Equity, and Identity (CREI) has held healing and dialogue spaces, as has our campus Hillel chapter and our Center for Academic Scholarship and Teaching (CAST). Our aim with these spaces is to listen to our students and be responsive when they raise concerns, with a focus on the safety and security of our campus community.

We have also heard from our students’ parents; they are reaching out with great fear for their students and our campus community when they read about or see what is happening on other campuses. I am grateful to our campus community for centering the care of one another, even in moments of disagreement and divisiveness. Violence, intimidation, and harassment are unacceptable in our community.

We have Muslim students fearful to wear their hijab on campus, and Jewish students anxious to wear a star of David. Given the current situation in Israel and Palestine, both are afraid to express who they are on our campus. This is heartbreaking to me, as I am sure it is to all of you. Each needs to feel safe and held on our campus.

There are immediate opportunities to engage in dialogue on campus, with more opportunities being planned for the spring semester.

  • On Tuesday, November 28, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., students can join CREI for a session focused on learning more and asking questions about the conflict.
  • On Wednesday, December 6, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., students are invited to a community conversation co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Equity and Inclusive Excellence, Cultural Studies, and your Student Government Association (SGA).

Meanwhile, let me suggest a few actions we can all take immediately as we continue our efforts to engage in difficult conversations while ensuring that everyone on our campus feels heard. These actions will help us all take a collective stand against hate in all its forms and vigorously oppose antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bias wherever they show up.

  • Be thoughtful about the resources that guide your thinking. Consider pieces that represent multiple perspectives; practice holding multiple truths at a time.
  • Guard against dehumanizing language or delegitimizing people’s suffering.
  • Do not assume the worst about people with whom you might disagree.
  • Be the person who refuses to use inflammatory language in dialogue.
  • Listen to people who are suffering from all perspectives.

In keeping with our community principles of respect, inclusion, and responsibility, I invite you to work together to create space for people to share their pain with each other and to find compassion and empathy for your fellow community members. Commit to making positive change, and to creating a world dedicated to peace for all people, starting with our work here on Goucher’s campus.


Kent Devereaux