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Responding to Grief

Presidential Letters 23–24

  • October 11, 2023

October 11, 2023

Dear friends,

Like many of you, I am profoundly saddened by the human capacity for violence that we have seen in our world over the past weeks. Ongoing conflicts in Sudan, Libya, and Ethiopia; war in Ukraine; mass shootings in the United States; and the latest violence in Israel and Gaza show us that our work for a just world is ongoing and necessary.

As members of a community, we turn to each other not only in times of celebration but also in times of grief, mourning, and fear. When we hear of violence, the college immediately begins the process of discovering which of our students are in affected areas, and we confirm that they are physically safe. But we know that many of us have ties that reach far across the country and the globe, and physical absence from a war zone does not always connote safety. The magnitude of these acts of violence is a call for us to always consider alternatives and to attend to the suffering of one another.

We are responding to this call in these ways:

  • There will be a Generating Justice Gathering and Vigil addressing recent violence in Israel and Gaza on Thursday, October 12, at 12:15 p.m. in Helen Hills Hills Chapel.
  • We will hold a panel discussion by faculty and staff organized by Provost Michael Thurston with Smith’s Lewis Global Studies Center—details forthcoming.
  • Counselors at the Schacht Center are available to provide emotional support to students through individual consultations. You can make an appointment by calling 413-585-2800.
  • Smith provides all of our faculty and staff with mental and emotional support through the Employee Assistance Program and Emotional Well-Being counseling sessions. More information is available on the Smith site.

As we continue to learn the complicated histories that help us understand why violence seems unending, our conversations may be among the most difficult we will ever have; they will also reflect a level of civil discourse that allows us to learn from each other. Let us never cease to acknowledge and respond to the suffering that acts of violence cause as we also commit to exploring ways to practice and teach alternatives to it.

In community,