Dear campus community,
Last week, we held the closing celebration for our sesquicentennial, and it was a day of pride for many of us. We celebrated the many aspects of Wayne State University that make us unique, among which is our historical and ongoing commitment to welcoming students from a wide array of backgrounds. Less than 24 hours later, we learned of the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and celebration gave way to mourning.
To help our community as we struggle to cope with this tragedy, we will hold a memorial today at 4 p.m. on Gullen Mall, next to the Mort Harris Recreation and Fitness Center. The program will last approximately 20 minutes. I invite you to join me.
It has been said that events like this happen so often that we are becoming inured to them, or that we are helpless to act. I don’t accept this, and I urge you not to accept it, either. This act was a hideous crime of hate, committed against innocent people practicing a religion of peace, and we all should be shocked and appalled. Our thoughts should be for the innocent men and women who lost their lives, and for those left behind who struggle with this loss. But we can do more, and it starts with each of us.
While this is clearly a vicious act of anti-Semitism, it is reasonable to believe that part of the blame goes to the divisive political rhetoric that is reaching a crescendo in our country. Civil discussion and reasoned debate have given way to bitterness and antagonism, and now — too often — to violence. Many of us have stopped listening to the other person or side simply because we have different views. Many of us eye those who differ from us with suspicion, even hate.
I have spoken often of diversity being more than race or creed, encompassing different ideas and viewpoints. Perhaps we should start right there. How much better would we be as a people if we listened — really listened — to one another? How much better would we be if we treated each other with respect and dignity, even when we disagreed? How much better would we be if we revived civility, which seems to have nearly disappeared from our public discourse?
Beyond condolences, beyond thoughts and prayers, perhaps we can commit to this: to honoring our long history of being a welcoming and inclusive campus community; to listening openly to those with whom we differ and assuming the best intent in the honest exchange of ideas; to tempering passion with reason and civility, rather than giving in to anger. To coming together rather than coming apart, and in doing so, setting an example for others to emulate.
Wayne State has always been a gateway to the American dream for thousands of students from all walks of life. Many of these students were and are Jewish. Their time at Wayne State changed their lives and made our university better. The evidence is all around our campus. At this sad time, I urge you to keep the victims and their loved ones in mind, and continue to be a caring and welcoming campus.
M. Roy Wilson