Letter to the WashU faculty after the election

Colleagues:

As our community absorbs the results of the election, I am awed by our calling as educators and scholars.  Many of our students are fearful of what the future holds while also struggling with the immediate effects of the rhetoric and painful events of the campaign.  We also have students who are excited about the results and the future.  As educators, we naturally look first to the needs of our students, both to tend to those in need and also to promote constructive dialogue among students on both sides.  As many of you saw, Vice Chancellor Lori White and Gephardt Director Stephanie Kurtzman sent a message yesterday to students reminding them of ways that our community can support them.  I want to thank them and all of you for all you’re doing for our community.

But even as we follow our natural tendency to care for our students, we are also called to tend to each other in our community of scholars.  The events of the campaign have taken a toll that requires our mutual support.  Now is the time for us to renew our commitment to the ideals of the university and our relentless desire to pursue and share the truth.  Washington University is no less committed today to the protection of our community from harassment and discrimination.  We are no less committed to understanding and embracing difference.  We are no less committed to the pursuit of the truth wherever it leads.  We are no less committed to helping to nourish and enhance the St. Louis community.

In the next few days, we will release a new set of policies aimed at further reducing sexual misconduct on the campus, following the recommendations of a committee led by Vice Provost Adrienne Davis.  Moments in recent weeks were particularly stressful for members of our community who are concerned about the threat of sexual assault and harassment and for all of us who strive for an environment that is free from gender discrimination.  We are equally vigilant when it comes to eliminating bias or harassment based on race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or gender expression.

Each day, I like to make at least a quick stop in Holmes Lounge.  I am inspired by the idea that a room was built for the reading aloud of all the world’s knowledge; I am humbled by the calling it represents.  We are the keepers of that tradition – not only to produce and curate all the world’s knowledge, but also to read it aloud.  The American democracy has never needed that sound more than it does right now.

Thank you for all you do for Washington University and the world.  It is an honor to be your provost.

Per veritatem vis.

Holden Thorp

Provost and Rita-Levi Montalcini Distinguished University Professor

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