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Concluding the Fall Semester

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff Members,

As the fall semester comes to a close and we enter into a much-needed, well-deserved winter break, I want to offer some brief reflections on the past several weeks. For many, this has been a challenging, turbulent time. Effects of the devastating, ongoing war in the Middle East rippled across college campuses, serving as a flashpoint for those with opposing views on the crisis. Sadly, on college campuses and beyond, incidents of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab hate increased dramatically. Over these past few months, the belief in freedom of expression, a deeply held value of institutions of higher learning, has been tested.

Versions of these challenges played out at Swarthmore and continue to do so. As I wrote to you earlier this month, the horrific violence in the Middle East and related circumstances have caused many of us to experience some combination of pain, fear, anger, and sadness. I encourage those who are struggling with the current circumstances to explore the resources below. 

Our support of the right to freedom of expression and our commitment to fostering an environment free of intimidation and harassment are not mutually exclusive. Balancing them, however, requires care, attention, and respect for one another. I look forward to working together to find ways to reaffirm these values that are foundational to Swarthmore’s living, working, and learning environment.

During such a challenging time, one might lose sight of this semester’s joys and accomplishments. Classroom discoveries, athletic victories, moving performances, inspiring creativity — we’ve come together in the spirit of the College’s mission to empower all who share in our community to flourish and contribute to a better world. Even during our most challenging times, I am deeply grateful to be part of this remarkable institution.&

I wish you all the best for a restorative winter break and holiday season and a happy start to the new year.


Val Smith