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Welcome to the 2017-2018 academic year! As we begin the fall semester, I can't think of a better time to underscore that Southern Connecticut State University is committed to both social justice and free speech. We strive to create a culture where people are willing to share their multiple points of view on myriad topics and participate in constructive dialogue. At the same time, we encourage the members of our campus community to treat each other with dignity, respect, kindness, compassion, and civility.
As I have said many times, every voice at this institution matters. I want the members of the Southern community to know that they are valued. I want everyone — students, faculty, and staff — to feel that they can put aside any differences, reach out to one another, and help each other out. Our goal here is to create opportunities for substantive debate, educational dialogue, and courageous conversations.
Relationships are the cornerstone of a Southern education. Your student is already building relationships with peers and teachers, and it is within these relationships that much of the learning that takes place on campus happens. At Southern, I would like to build an “ethic of care,” as defined by the feminist scholar Carol Gilligan: that is, “an ethic grounded in voice and relationships, in the importance of everyone having a voice, being listened to carefully (in their own right and on their own terms) and heard with respect.”
I challenge all of us at Southern to instill an ethic of care within this community, by building relationships and making every effort to listen, to hear, and to understand one another. Where better to learn about others’ points of view and to debate and converse with others with whom you differ, than on a college campus?
At New Student Convocation this fall, I encouraged our students to pay attention to the world around them — to really pay attention. By doing so, I told them, they will learn how to interact with people whose ideas and values may be completely opposite to theirs, and to see the world from their point of view.
I told our new students that as the newest members of our campus community, they have a larger responsibility — to each other. I asked them to be “intentionally kind” when they participate in events and activities, walk around campus, or interact with others. It could be as simple as helping a person carry a package or their books. It could be a bit more challenging: confronting inappropriate behavior or hurtful remarks.
Helping a fellow student with their classwork, saying a kind word, giving someone words of encouragement, standing up for an injustice, fighting for what you believe is right: these things matter in our community, and actually help to create community.
I’m delighted to have welcomed your student to campus this fall, and I hope you’ll visit campus yourself sometime soon.