Living in Community in Very Difficult Times

November 01, 2023


Dear campus community,

I write to you within the context of these very challenging times to provide recourse and resources for your well-being and to recall our stewardship of our community and of each other. I write especially to Grinnell students, wanting you to know how very much your faculty and staff care about you, as they live in these times with you. Below are four core practices for our important work ahead as a community.

Look out for each other. The challenges before us call on us more than ever to safeguard our community: to look out for one another, to care for one another, to center the dignity and well-being of each and every person at Grinnell. We must build and maintain a sense of safety for each other, with support from the College that answers specific needs. A range of campus partners are here for you, from Student Health and Wellness and Campus Safety to the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and beyond. Think both of what you need for your sense of safety and of what you can do to build a sense of safety for others.

Be aware of discrimination and report harassment. College and university campuses have been the sites of growing antisemitic and Islamophobic harassment. The College denounces antisemitism and Islamophobia and we – all of us – are the College. As an interconnected community we can – and must – respond to such and any harassment or discrimination. We must be aware of and denounce antisemitism and Islamophobia and harassment of members of our community. Our collective responsibility and accountability to one another depend on anyone who witnesses or experiences antisemitic or Islamophobic or otherwise discriminatory or harassing behavior to make a report through our BIRT process.  A BIRT report may be made anonymously, or you may choose for someone to contact you. Please look through a BIRT report form to familiarize yourselves with this recourse.

Reach out. I am so very grateful to the staff and faculty who gathered many of us in community on Monday afternoon for a vigil for lives lost in Israel and Gaza. Music, poetry, and words of remembrance created a space for mourning and processing. These spaces matter very much to the needed respite that can sustain us. Reach out to your friends, to your mentors, to whomever replenishes you. Spend time on self-reflection or in reflection with others to take care of yourself. Know that there are dozens of resources and multiple campus partners who are at the ready to support you, to be a resource to you, and to champion you.

Learn more. There are multiple sources of information about the Israel-Gaza war. Consider these sources; discuss them with trusted mentors; question and corroborate them. The tragedy of the war in Israel-Gaza is compounded by layers of history and inter-generational trauma. Before you use slogans or phrases, learn their history and think of their impact on others in our community; some create associations that are harmful and frightening. The complexity and grief of this war call for further education and we will need to bring more resources to bear to our shared understanding of what is happening in this war and of its impact on community members here in Grinnell.

We are here, now, at Grinnell College — all of us doing the very best we can to comprehend world events and to contribute to relief from suffering, and to the hope for peace. That vital work begins among us and radiates outwards.

Wishing you well, 

Anne F. Harris  

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