To Our UVM Mishpacha (Family),
I’m sharing with you the note below that was recently sent to the UVM community from Provost Patricia Prelock. In a time where university leaders are struggling to find the right words of support for their Jewish students, UVM Hillel deeply appreciates the University of Vermont’s commitment to Our Common Ground values and dedication to fostering a campus environment where every student can be their fullest self.
I applaud UVM’s proactive leadership in addressing campus climate issues relating to our Jewish community. The “Unpacking Antisemitism Within a Solidarity Framework” session was the fourth largest public program related to antisemitism education sponsored by the university since last April. The administration’s senior leadership has spent many hours in conversation with Jewish student leaders listening and learning about the impact of antisemitism on their lives, not just since October 7th but for many years.
To be clear, UVM is taking a leadership role among higher education institutions in protecting our Jewish students’ rights and we sincerely appreciate their support of our Jewish students, their friends, and allies.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if we can support your student (or grandstudent) as they pursue a thriving Jewish life at the University of Vermont.
PS: In case you haven’t already, don’t forget to register for our upcoming Virtual Campus Climate Briefing on February 6th at 5:30 pm! Hear updates from myself and UVM’s Chief Safety & Compliance Officer Michael Schirling. Registration is required and can be found here.
Dear UVM community,
Last week, we had the opportunity to come together to celebrate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with an excellent guest speaker, Dr. Damon A. Williams. I appreciated Dr. Williams’s persuasive message for us to cultivate and sustain “a beloved community” in the ways Dr. King had envisioned. His words were so compelling that I write today to share them with you here, along with my encouragement to every member of our UVM community to consider and commit to this inspiring vision.
At the event, President Garimella opened with the powerful encouragement that we must all be devoted to working for the betterment of this community and embrace the notion of true inclusion and commitment to one another. It’s about each of us taking responsibility for creating a community of care and compassion. As Dr. Garimella said, citing the late Congressman John Lewis, when we do this, we can create a society at peace with itself.
To be in a community together includes the opportunity and the challenge of being exposed to vastly differing world views. Engaging with viewpoints in opposition to one’s own is often difficult, and sometimes painful. Still, and because we are a community of inquiry grounded in shared values, it is vital for us to do so.
This semester and beyond, you will be invited to lectures, workshops, trainings, and conversations focused on respectful discourse and shared understanding. I hope you will take the time to attend and engage—with the respect, openness, and integrity that characterize the people of our cherished university. Today, the Interfaith Center is offering a workshop on unpacking antisemitism within a solidarity framework. Next week, on February 7, participants in our annual Janus Forum (pdf) will engage timely questions about social media—and provide a stellar example of how respectful and productive debate helps deepen our understanding of issues.
This work will continue throughout this semester, with plans underway to convene a second panel on the Israel-Hamas conflict, drawing on the deep expertise of UVM faculty, as well as a workshop on Islamophobia. The university’s Major Lecture Series will bring more guests to share their expertise and explore with us the opportunities and implications of social media use. We have begun—and will continue—training faculty and staff on intergroup dialog facilitation methods. These are just a few examples of opportunities to listen, learn, and engage across our differences.
President Garimella and I, along with our colleagues in leadership, value the presence and contributions of every member of our university community, and we believe that our differences help make us better. Thank you for committing to this work. I look forward to working alongside you as one UVM.