To the University Community:
These have been dark days for our country. We are mourning the killings of 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Across the country, people have been arrested for threatening similar shootings in malls, movie theaters and schools. As you have seen in other campus announcements today, that included one of our own.
It seems appropriate that this Friday is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. I think we are all craving more light in our world.
I hope you will join me in keeping those affected by the violence in our thoughts and prayers. It is an excruciating time for their families and friends. As we share in their pain, we might also share in their fears. It is understandable to feel some anxiety about recent events, and airing concerns can be helpful to you and your colleagues. We must work together to keep our university a place where learning can flourish — a community that is safe, collaborative and respectful. If you have any concerns about an individual who may be a risk to himself or someone else, reach out for help by calling police or PolyCARES.
Now is also a good time to review the campus’ emergency procedures, such as reading the short guide, asking a faculty member about classroom safety, or sitting down as a department to discuss any concerns.
These incidents have also sparked a national conversation about mental illness and gun violence. Meaningful conversations about these issues require many of the things we value as a university, including civil dialogue and a respect for diverse backgrounds and opinions. As members of an academic community, it is important that we take part in the conversations to help bring light to the complex issues our country is facing.
Even more healing than dialogue is action. At a university such as ours, opportunities for meaningful action are abundant. Our students are studying to become future social workers, medical care providers, police officers, teachers, and civic and business leaders. Our faculty and staff have expertise in history, philosophy, health, public safety and leadership – all fields that will play a key role in moving this country forward. As the holidays come and pass, I hope we continue to hold the victims of violence in our hearts, so when we start a new year and a new quarter, we will also start renewed efforts make our community and our nation safer.
J. Michael Ortiz