As you know from the conversations we’ve had over the past few days, I do not assume that all of us share the same political opinions. In fact, quite the reverse — I know and respect the different points of view that each of you bring to our collective conversation.
I do believe that we share a common commitment to basic values of tolerance, respect and mutual trust. These are values that I work hard to instill in our classroom, and they apply equally to all students, indeed to all of us — regardless of political affiliation, race or ethnicity, immigration status or religion. I call on you speak out for those values today.
This Friday, Veteran’s Day, posters that advocated white supremacist ideas were hung the walls of Hagerty Hall, the building where I work. Many of you have seen these images circulating on social media and feel upset and scared. It is frightening to see these views openly expressed in spaces that we have all worked to make safe. It is even more frightening to hear that this is part of a national pattern of harassment and violence against women, people of color and Muslims in the days since the election.
I feel vulnerable too. I am a woman. I work in higher education. I am married to a man who is not only an immigrant, but brown and a Spanish-speaker. I have two Latino children. I feel vulnerable personally and I am also worried about people I love and about my children’s future. But feeling vulnerable is different than being afraid. It is not surprising that a political cycle that has been centered on divisiveness, resentment and mistrust should breed a legacy of fear and hate. I refuse to be part of that. I refuse to be afraid, and I refuse to look around me with hate and distrust.
The university is a community that is built around a set of common values. At its best, the university is a space to explore difference, to engage with new and potentially radical ideas. It is a space for discussion, for experimentation, for debate, for idealism in its best forms. We cannot do that when we feel angry, afraid or hateful. Do not close in, reach out. Do not shut down, open up.
And so I call on you to act. Listen to people who you know disagree with you. Speak out when you see injustice. Stand up for what you know is right. Get active at the community level — make this a better town, state, nation and world over the next four years. And most of all, finish your education. Graduate and get out there in the world to pay it forward. I am proud to be an educator and a part of this institution. I am proud of all of you. We are strong not despite our differences, but because of them. And we are all in this together.
Dr. Anna Babel
Department of Spanish and Portuguese