The conversations I have had over the past couple of days at the annual conference of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities highlighted the extent to which the situation in Gaza and Israel is affecting campuses across the country. I heard many university leaders share stories about the pain and anxiety experienced by students, faculty, and staff on their campuses; about conflict among members of their communities; and about the worrisome growth in incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia.
The Georgia Tech community is no different. In my meetings over the last month with Jewish and Muslim student leaders, as well as with faculty and staff colleagues, it’s clear our community is experiencing anguish over the loss of human life in Gaza and Israel, anxiety about the future of the impacted communities, and fear of increased antisemitism and Islamophobia right here at home. These concerns are felt even more acutely by those with personal, family, cultural, or faith ties with the Middle East and by those who may be targets of discrimination because of their background.
There’s much we can do as a university to support our community. First and foremost, we will do everything in our power to keep everyone safe. The Georgia Tech Police Department and Student Engagement and Well-Being have worked diligently to address incidents of harassment, vandalism, or violence in our community and will continue to do so. It is important that we all help them do their work: If you experience or witness any action that concerns you, please report it.
Second, I encourage all of us to learn more about the history and reality of antisemitism and Islamophobia and reflect on how to combat them. I have attended sessions at higher education conferences on this subject and spoken to leaders in various relevant organizations. I have studied communications from the White House and the U.S. Department of Education about our obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I regularly meet with colleagues and students at Georgia Tech and elsewhere who have been on the receiving end of hate and harassment to try to learn as much as I can.
Third, we need to support those among us who need help. I ask all members of our Georgia Tech community to extend empathy, compassion, and care to our students during this challenging time. In the spirit of shared humanity, we need to acknowledge the lives lost in both Israel and Gaza, which is now facing a significant humanitarian crisis. If any student is experiencing anxiety, stress, or simply wishes to talk with someone who can help, we have counselors available to support your emotional and mental well-being through Student Engagement and Well-Being. Many members of our faculty and staff are also experiencing anxiety related to these events. We have support services available through our Employee Assistance Program, and I encourage anyone to access them if you need help.
Lastly, I hope we can provide an example to the rest of our community of civil, respectful, and peaceful expression of ideas. As a university, Georgia Tech does not hold or profess any specific position on this or other complex geopolitical issues. But the members of our community do. It is our responsibility to create an environment where everyone can freely express their views and have an opportunity to engage in respectful dialogue with others. The right to free speech on a public university campus like ours is broad and protects even forms of expression that may appear offensive to some. I urge everyone to use that right judiciously and compassionately.
These heartbreaking events underline the vital role Georgia Tech plays in helping build a better world for all. Every day, I am inspired by the ideas coming out of our labs and the ingenuity and leadership of our students. Our mission to develop leaders who can improve the human condition through the power of innovation has never been more important.