Below is a message sent to students in the English Department from Dr. Jonathan Greenberg, Department Chair, on Thursday, January 2, 2021.
I imagine that many of you, like me, are outraged and horrified at the violent assault on our democracy yesterday perpetrated by a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters, and encouraged by the outgoing president himself and by many leaders of the national Republican party.
As a professor of literature, I don’t presume to have any special expertise on the forces that allow demagogues, fascists, and would-be dictators to rise to power, or how it is that a government based on law can so easily degenerate into mob violence. However, I want to reassure you all that this university is wholly committed to a safe and inclusive campus, where you are able to pursue your education free from violence and the threat of violence.
I also know that now more than ever the importance of education to our society becomes clear. As we struggle to restore the health of our society at large, we must remain committed to the core values of the university: the pursuit of truth over lies; free, open, and reasoned inquiry and debate based on facts, evidence, and logic; and a diverse and inclusive environment that gives equal access to all, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, religion (or lack thereof), age, ethnicity, immigration status, or nationality. The university must be a microcosm of society at its best; our classrooms, libraries, cafes, dorms, and Zoom sessions should be places where we strive for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in an atmosphere of kindness and mutual respect.
As you all know, the past year has seen not only assaults on our constitutional system of democracy, but also a dangerous pandemic that has claimed nearly as many American lives as World War II, and a nationwide movement for racial justice sparked by a series of horrific police killings. I’ve been amazed and inspired by your capacity, and that of your professors, to continue your academic work so successfully in spite of all this tumult, and to bring your work to bear on the pressing issues we face as individuals and as a community. I sincerely hope that with a new year, a new president, and the prospect of vaccinations, we can recommit ourselves to the educational work that our society so desperately needs.
Best wishes for a healthy and safe 2021,