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A Post-Election Day Message

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff Members, 

In the months leading up to the election, many speculated that we’d find ourselves where we are today: Election Day is behind us, but the outcome remains unclear. This uncertainty only exacerbates pervasive levels of tension and anxiety.

Make no mistake about it: Efforts to confuse vote-counting with voting, or to challenge the validity of millions of ballots, constitute a threat to our democracy. Nevertheless, I hope you will feel encouraged by what you and your colleagues and neighbors have already done, and will continue to do, to uphold our rights.

Collectively, our community committed extraordinary energy to fostering an environment of civic engagement so that people could make their voices heard — even in the face of egregious attempts of voter suppression. I am particularly grateful for the work of our Get Out the Vote committee. From promoting the importance of participating in the democratic process, to helping our students navigate the complexities of registering and voting amid the COVID-19 crisis, to organizing our voting buddies initiative yesterday, the members of the GOTV committee served the College and our democracy well.

As the results of this year’s presidential election become clearer in the days ahead, we must remember that, regardless of the outcome, many of the challenges we face will remain. As I argued in a recent opinion piece (co-authored with James Madison University president and Swarthmore alumnus Jonathan Alger ’86), our College — and higher education more generally — needs to remain at the forefront of confronting those challenges:

The fierce partisanship and polarization that too often paralyze our nation are on full display as we face historic crises — the COVID-19 pandemic, the related economic downturn, and the racial and xenophobic hatred and violence that continue to plague our country. History tells us that we cannot take democracy for granted; it demands effort and determination from every generation. It depends upon people who can engage in thoughtful, principled ways in the large challenges we face with the diversity of opinions around us and a sense of responsibility for each other. Institutions of higher education play a critical role in supporting its survival.

For now, even if for just a moment, I encourage you to breathe and to pause for reflection, for self-care, and for your own health and well-being. If you’re unable to find a physical place of peace, perhaps this virtual visit to the Scott Amphitheater will offer you some solace. 

The struggle will continue, and the moment demands strength and resiliency. As we’re ready and able, we will continue the shared work of serving the common good.


Val Smith