Dear Drexel Students and Colleagues,

Before we break for the weekend, I want to acknowledge the anguish, anger, and fear that pervade our community in reaction to the tragic crises in Israel and Gaza.

Over the past two weeks, many of you have written directly to me to express how you have been personally affected by the war between Israel and Hamas, and by Drexel’s institutional response.

I cannot adequately express how much I appreciate your willingness to share your views, experiences, and feelings so openly with me. I have heard from students and colleagues who lost loved ones in Hamas’ brutal terrorist attack against innocent Israeli civilians on October 7 — an attack I continue to utterly condemn. I have heard from other students who have lost loved ones in Israel’s siege of Gaza. I have heard from Jewish students, parents and alumni who are deeply alarmed by anti-Semitic incidents on campus, and from Muslim students and alumni who feel unseen, unheard, isolated, and fearful.

So I want to be clear about my priorities and my stance.

My first priority is to support all our students and colleagues through this difficult time.

That means two things:

First, it means that no group or individual member of our community is more deserving of our sympathy, support, and defense of their rights than any other.

In that regard, I want to extend my full sympathy and support to our Palestinian students, faculty, and professional staff, whose pain and trauma deepen by the hour as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens and casualties rise. I join with them in grieving for loved ones who have died during Israel’s siege of Gaza and in praying for the safety of Palestinian civilians in harm’s way. I also want to reaffirm that Drexel defends their right to express their views about Israel and Palestine without fear of intimidation, harassment, or professional retribution, and will continue to enforce a policy of zero tolerance against any manifestation of Islamophobia in our community.

I also extend my full sympathy and support to our Jewish and Israeli students on campus who have been impacted or traumatized by the atrocities committed by Hamas, and shaken by recent anti-Semitic incidents on campus. In particular, I want to reaffirm our policy of zero tolerance against any manifestation of anti-Semitism or expression of anti-Israel sentiment that threatens anyone’s safety and well-being.

Second and more broadly, supporting our students and colleagues means building bridges for dialogue. We have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for productive conversations around difficult topics to take place. We can and must create more opportunities that help us to understand, discuss, and debate this tragic conflict in all its complex dimensions, and to disagree without becoming disrespectful, disruptive, or hateful. How well we meet that responsibility during times of crisis will help to determine whether we fortify our University as a bastion of academic freedom and powerful force for teaching and learning, or risk becoming a community divided across deep political fault lines against itself.

As long as we continue to offer one another compassionate understanding and moral support, along with the space to grieve and to express one’s views without fear of intimidation or harassment, I am optimistic that we will remain a bastion of academic freedom and a deeply caring community. 


John Fry

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