Letter to the Editor 9/11/14

Dear students and colleagues:

In the face of issues in our country and around the globe that continue to escalate and defy resolution, I believe it is our responsibility to bring our intellects, critical analyses and passionate beliefs to the larger body of discourse and debate. Doing so is at the heart of a Vassar education. It is also our responsibility to step outside of the one-sided rhetoric in the media and elsewhere, to engage complex issues deeply and respectfully from multiple perspectives. Part of that responsibility is really listening to and considering viewpoints other than our own.

As we begin the year, I want to encourage all of us to think about how we can best engage with each other and how we can improve the campus climate to support productive discussions that reflect our best as citizens of the College and the larger world. We are fortunate to have diverse backgrounds and experiences among the members of our campus community. The opportunities we have to learn about each other and from each other are extraordinary. We also will likely encounter beliefs very different from our own, and while these experiences may be uncomfortable at times, they provide us with rich learning opportunities.

As you may have seen in my other emails to the campus community this summer, the President’s Office is providing grant support over the next two years for events and other projects that students, faculty and staff develop to address complex issues from multiple points of view. Proposals for these projects will be accepted on a rolling basis throughout this and the next academic year.

In addition, a number of academic departments and administrative offices are developing programming on the general topic of working across differences as well as on specific topics, including conflicts in the Middle East. We will have more details to announce about those speakers and events soon.

And as part of our efforts to engage with students on the broad range of issues that may be on their minds, Dean of the College Chris Roellke and I will be inviting all the students in the sophomore class to meet with us in small groups over the course of this year. These meetings will complement our regular office hours and other meetings with individual students and student groups.

I welcome your ideas on any of these topics. I know that as individuals and as a community we can have not only the courage of our convictions, but also the courage to consider the convictions of others. I believe it is the way forward to the strongest possible campus community, where everyone feels included and respected, and an important way we can contribute to improving the world beyond our gates.

Catharine Hill

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