A Message from President Botstein

March 19, 2021

   

To the Bard College Community:

The challenges created by the coronavirus have disproportionately affected the poor and underrepresented communities across the nation. There has also been a dramatic rise in discrimination, harassment, and violence against people of Asian heritage. The killing of eight people in Georgia this week, six of whom were Asian women, is a terrifying reminder of the persistence of a deep prejudice in America directed at people of Asian descent that dates back to the 19th century. The tragedy in Atlanta also mirrors much more recent racist rhetoric that has scapegoated the Asian community regarding COVID-19.

On behalf of the entire Bard community, I want to express our outrage and our sympathy for the victims and their families. The six Asian women who lost their lives, workers in low paying jobs during the pandemic, were among the most vulnerable within our communities. These murders add a brutal chapter to our long national history of xenophobia and misogyny aimed specifically at Asians and Asian-Americans.  
 
In the coming days, it is our goal to respond to the needs of our community while working together to raise awareness. One such effort is tomorrow's Symposium on Difference and Justice, which will include a time for us to connect in solidarity. Bard is not only proud of its many students, staff, and faculty who come from Asia and are of Asian descent; it is committed to its many programs of academic cooperation with partners in Asia, including Myanmar, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan, and China. Our links to Asia will increase as the Open Society University Network expands in the years ahead, and we cherish the links we have already established, from the US-China Music Institute to our support for the Parami Institute in Myanmar.

The Dean of Students office, Counseling Service, Wellness program, Chaplaincy, and Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion have been reaching out to students. They can be contacted at any time for support. Together with Bard’s Center for the Study of Hate, we are here to help our community acknowledge and address the individual and collective toll that prejudice, discrimination, and violence against fellow human beings takes on us. We also acknowledge, with gratitude, the efforts of many faculty, staff, and students (through student clubs and entities such as the Council for Inclusive Excellence) that are designed to strengthen our community's sense of solidarity and respect for all. We urge all who seek assistance and reassurance to take advantage of the resources available to people in crisis who are experiencing fear and anxiety.      
 
Here in Annandale, we are on the cusp of spring, traditionally a time of rebirth and renewal. The season about to begin calls on us to reiterate that Bard College is committed to racial equity and justice for all people. We condemn racism and xenophobia, and we believe in the power of education, from the sciences to the humanities and the arts, to strengthen our common bonds of humanity. Many faculty and staff have reaffirmed the college's commitment to combat hate, prejudice, and racism, and strengthen relationships with like-minded institutions around the world. Through Bard's status as a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, we support efforts such as the American Dream and Promise Act. We welcome, with respect and affection, students from abroad, both those who are immigrants and those who have chosen to come to the United States for their higher education. Through our membership in the newly formed Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, we are actively working with peer institutions to make our colleges and universities effective opponents of prejudice and racism directed at all vulnerable groups and individuals. 
 
The diversity in our community, particularly, at this crucial time, including its Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander members, is one of Bard's important strengths. There is no individual in this community who is not deserving of the full dignity and opportunity to thrive. 

With thanks, appreciation and sympathy,

Leon Botstein
President

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