Reflecting on the Events of the Day

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The message below was sent to Columbia College students on the evening of Thursday, April 18, 2024.

Dear Students,

To say that this is a difficult day for Columbia does not do justice to the broad and deep range of feelings that we are experiencing right now, in the wake of police arresting students on our campus earlier today. For the moment, this is an evolving situation without a clear or final resolution. In the coming days, more information will come into focus.

For now, I am writing neither to mollify nor diminish how any of you may feel in this moment. No one, least of all me, can or should dictate how anyone thinks or feels — particularly in the face of such complex and vexing issues. All I can offer at present is my counsel and perspective even as, I will admit, words are sometimes inadequate.

For this season of discord to bear any productive outcome, I believe that each of us must strive to avoid the false surety of familiar assumptions: that we know the thoughts and feelings of those we disagree with; that we can accurately judge the intentions of others from a distance; or that our own motivations and intentions are clear to others.

The complex of emotions — including confusion, pain and dismay, or vindication — that many feel now can easily move us in the direction of bitterness, isolation or cynicism. To do so may provide some with consolation or validation in the short term. But the harder choice — and to my mind, the right one — is to counter polarization and distrust with an effort to better understand one another and find ways to move forward together.

To be sure, some will question the motivations, decisions and actions leading up to today — and that is to be expected in an academic community that is built upon rigorous debate. For now, however, I offer a sincere request that you look out for each other and grant everyone in the Columbia community a measure of respect. As always, those whose academic, co-curricular or personal lives are disrupted by these events have the resources of our community at their disposal.

You are not alone. The staff of the College are here to support you and so am I.

With respect,

Josef Sorett
Dean of Columbia College
Vice President for Undergraduate Education