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October 11, 2023: On Our Community As We Respond to Violence in Israel and Gaza

October 11, 2023 email from President Sarah Bolton to campus:

Dear Whitman community,

The horrific violence and heart-breaking loss of life taking place in Israel and Gaza are cause for deep grief for many people around the world.

As Whitman’s president, my first concern is for our faculty, staff and students, and for the actions we can take to support individuals and our community. Over the past several days, the Dean of Students’ staff have reached out individually to support students from the region. At the same time, we know that there are many more students, staff and faculty who are deeply affected by these terrible events, some because they have friends and family members in Israel and Gaza, and others because they are connected to the region by history, identity or faith. Indeed, while these events may impact Israeli and Palestinian members of our community the most, they touch all of us in differing ways.

In this time of such great pain and fear for many people, our actions matter. Ours is a community that values the personhood and the dignity of each individual, and that expressly intends to be a place of welcome, safety and care for everyone. In the wake of violence in the Middle East region, both antisemitic and islamophobic speech and acts often increase, and we are seeing that trend nationally. At Whitman, the campus community is rooted in diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism, and members of our community hold many different identities. Harassment, abuse and discrimination based on a person’s national or religious identity can have no place here. We are woven together, and the strength of our community comes from caring for one another while seeking understanding. We should not allow events taking place beyond our campus to interrupt that care, and I encourage each of us to pay attention to the welfare of others, and to reach out to those we know who may be struggling.

For those who may wish to access support, counseling resources are available for our students through the Counseling Center and Uwill Teletherapy. Faculty and staff can connect with a counselor through Canopy, our employee assistance program, which has put together special resources based on the current situation. Interfaith Chaplain Adam Kirtley (kirtleam@whitman.edu) and Director of the Intercultural Center Tebraie Banda-Johns (bandajot@whitman.edu) are both available for individual conversations or support for any member of the campus community, and Director of Equity and Compliance and Title IX coordinator Cassandre Beccai (beccaic@whitman.edu) is also available to anyone who may wish to report a concern about identity-based harassment or harm.

Depending on community interest, these staff and others may provide additional opportunities for gathering and support in the coming days. We will be in touch to let you know about those opportunities as they are developed.

In my own faith tradition, we sometimes talk about holding people in the light. I am holding the Whitman community in the light tonight, as well as all those who are victims of violence in Israel, Gaza and beyond.


Sarah Bolton

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