May 4, 2024

Dear all,

I am writing to update the campus on new commitments we have made as a college, in collaboration with students associated with the recent encampment. With these commitments, the college will work to improve our understanding, dialogue about, and educational programming concerning peace and conflict, with focus on Gaza and the Middle East.

First, the Campus Investor Responsibility Committee (CIRC) will prioritize review of a proposal for divestment from defense-related investments, such as militarized surveillance and arms production, with the intention of bringing the proposal to the Trustee Investor Responsibility Committee (TIRC) during the upcoming May or the October Board meeting, at which the students will be invited by CIRC to present to TIRC. In addition, I have invited the students to present to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees; this presentation will occur at the May meeting. Furthermore, the senior leadership team and I will work with students to get input on updating our procurement policies to ensure alignment with Vassar’s values and commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investment policies. We commit to working, as well as to achieve greater transparency about major independent contractors with Vassar.

Second, the Dean of Faculty will convene a working group of faculty and students to propose curricular innovations around the topics of Peace and Conflict Studies and/or Middle Eastern Studies. Additionally, we will seek to recruit and support Palestinian students and scholars-at-risk, who have lost educational and professional opportunities since October 7. The College will also support student-led fundraising efforts around refugees.

Third, we recognize that dialogue on campus around Palestine and Israel is fraught and has caused harm. We can recover from this and become stronger as a learning community, with deliberate capacity building in engaged pluralism and restorative practices. This work can help us heal, understand each other better, and be more effective advocates for both free speech and respect and dignity for all. Discrimination and harassment have no place on this campus, and when it does occur, we are prompt in addressing it according to our college policies. In the year ahead, we also plan to expand our restorative practices offerings through Engaged Pluralism and the Dean of College area.

Last, I am committed to working together with students and faculty to ensure that these commitments are fulfilled and that our community continues to learn from one another as we seek to create a better collective future. Our conversations throughout our recent discussions have been thoughtful, humanizing, and meaningful. It is imperative to recognize the growing anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism that affects our students’ experiences.  In addition, both antisemitism and Islamophobia continue to be on the rise. Our campus is committed to combating all these forms of hatred. Our campus community is horrified by the mass violence that continues to occur in Gaza and the larger region. This sustained  violence has prompted protests nationally across college campuses. Students and faculty have advocated for an immediate ceasefire, and I am heartened by recent news that a ceasefire may be forthcoming.

In conclusion, I am grateful to the students who raised concerns to which these commitments are a response. Their energy and collaboration have been essential to the college’s progress, and I look forward to working together with all interested students on bringing these commitments to fruition.

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Vassar College
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604