August 4, 2019

This week’s shootings in America

Like all of you, surely, we both are struggling to comprehend the horrible incidents of gun violence that have occurred in the United States – first in Gilroy, Calif., a week ago; and this weekend in El Paso, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio. The violence and loss of life are both heartbreaking and alarming, even in an era in which such incidents seemingly occur with regularity.

Media reports indicate that yesterday’s El Paso massacre is being investigated as a possible hate crime, tied to racist and anti-immigrant sentiment. In our country and around the world, we have seen too many instances of violence fueled by racial or religious hatred, with devastating consequences. Unfortunately, we also know that attacks of hate-fueled violence are not new to communities of color, who have endured generations of racial violence.

These ugly incidents go beyond the distorted actions of individuals to the wider culture we have. For all of us, these incidents pose challenging questions about how to respond, how to create meaningful change, and how to contribute to the better and more just society we want to see.

For those in our community in the wake of these shootings, a Vigil for Solidarity is being planned for this Wednesday afternoon, at 4 p.m., in the courtyard of Old Union. The Office for Religious Life, Office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs, and other offices are coordinating on this and other outreach to members of our campus community.

For the longer term, as a university we have the capacity and responsibility to undertake broader efforts around these issues. We recognize that expressing condolences, as we do in this message, does not move us forward; a more substantive contribution of the university to pressing issues of the day can be achieved through its academic work. Our research, teaching, patient care – and the conversations we initiate and convene as members of an academic community – are central to what we can contribute to the wider world.

We intend to pursue new activities this fall to move farther in that direction – going beyond responding in the moment to the tragedies occurring in our world to identifying ways of convening deeper conversations and investigation into their sources, their impacts, and possible paths forward. This is the hard work to which universities are well suited.

Many members of our community bring wisdom and personal experience to these issues. We invite your input as we and others consider possibilities for these expanded activities, and will be in further touch after the fall quarter begins.