I am writing to all members of the department and beyond together to address recent shifts in the culture both at large and in our department, as a community. I have been waiting for a lull in the post-election conversation to write to you all, however, unfortunately, there does not seem to be a respite from the dangerous and adversarial rhetoric that has been unleashed since the election season. So, I will add my voice, hopefully a bit more measured here.
As with all violence, when viewed at a distance it seems somehow less urgent or real. However, when such violence, either in words or deed, begins to spill over into our daily life and personal space, it becomes impossible to ignore. I am aware that there are many for whom it is already impossible, who have been, on a daily basis, simply unable to ignore the vitriolic and harmful rhetoric and the violence flowing from such rhetoric that has been so well documented. I am also aware that my words here may be too little or to small to effect any change in your lives. You have read many such letters as this from many people trying to assuage your fears. There are a lot of people on campus who are trying very hard to find something positive to focus on and I can only imagine how difficult that must be for those of you whose lives have been disrupted by recent events. Here is what we can offer to our own community:
We can promise, as faculty and as support staff in the Art Department, to make sure that our community has every resource available to combat the feelings of fear and anxiety that have been expressed by many of you. We can promise that the Art Department is truly a safe place for everyone who is a member of our community. If it is not, and if any of our students are feeling unsafe, or threatened in any way, we need to stop whatever we are doing and address those fears.
It has come to my attention, that during open studios, one of our students was made to feel unsafe in an encounter with a visitor to the Lofts. As the chair of the department, I must express how powerless I felt when told about this. At length, I realized that I need to reach out to all of you to help us keep the promise that all of our students, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, ideology or any other way in which we might organize our identity, are in fact safe; safe to express themselves or not as they so choose and safe from unwanted attention of any kind that may put the individual at risk or compromise their feelings of well-being and belonging to our incredible community of conscientious and creative people.
So I am asking all of you who are reading this to help me keep that promise. Please let our students and each other know that you are being looked out for and that all of our doors are open for you to seek refuge in any way that you need. As Chair of the Art Department, my door is open and I am here to help in any way possible. Please feel free to reach out to me. To our students: please do take advantage of our availability if you need to.
We are one of the most diverse departments on campus and that is a point of pride for us. Please help us to insure that our diversity remains a shared resource.
Know that we are in this together.
Chair of Art
Chancellor Blank’s message to our community
Dean of Students – Bias reporting online
McBurney Disability Resource Center