Charlottesville, Virginia

August 15, 2017

Dear Vassar Community,

Like many of you, I watched in horror as the demonstrations and deadly violence unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia. These white supremacists and neo-Nazis spewed hatred that can only be described as vile and abhorrent. Their views are the antithesis of what we as a nation, and what we at Vassar, believe, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.

As we are disillusioned and deeply saddened, we must redouble our efforts to support the principles of a liberal education: respectful debate, thoughtful inquiry, and engaged citizenship. The college campus holds a unique space in our civic discourse, as it allows ideas to flow freely while maintaining the highest respect for others. We stand in solidarity with the University of Virginia and Charlottesville, which have suffered deep wounds in their community and have witnessed hate, violence, and loss of life.

As a college president, I also feel the pressing need to stand arm-in-arm with my fellow heads of colleges and universities around the nation. As educators, it is our job—our responsibility—to provide a welcoming and safe place for students of all backgrounds.

As one Jewish proverb states, “I ask not for a lighter load but for broader shoulders.” Today, we cannot ask for the past to be erased, but instead we must meet the present with unfaltering determination and hope. The future stands before us, asking each of us to do our part to make our community—and the world—a more inclusive, welcoming place.

This is a good time to remember these lines from Vassar’s Mission Statement: Vassar is open to all and strives to pursue diversity, inclusion, and equity as essential components of a rich intellectual and cultural environment in which all members, including those from underrepresented and marginalized groups, are valued and empowered to thrive.

Next week, Vassar’s newest group of first-year students will be arriving on campus. Many of you may still be feeling unsettled because of the attacks in Virginia. I want you—and all of our students—to know there is no place for bigotry on our campus. And that you are not just welcome at Vassar—you are wanted.

If you are struggling with the impact of these events, I encourage you to reach out to the resources we have available at Vassar including the offices of the dean of students, dean of studies, and campus life and diversity. I am also available to talk and am looking forward to getting to know our full community. I turn to all of you as members of our community to help ensure that Vassar continues to be a model institution that values those around us with kindness and generosity of spirit.

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604