MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT: WELCOME TO THE FALL SEMESTER; THOUGHTS ON RECENT EVENTS

8/27/2017

SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young Shares this Message with Students as the Fall 2017 Semseter is about to Commence

Greetings SUNY Orange students,

As we convene tomorrow morning for the start of the Fall semester, I find myself energized in anticipation of the upcoming 15-week academic journey we are about to begin. However, this year, my joyful excitement for the new semester has been tempered by the devastating flooding ongoing in Texas, along with the incidents that recently occurred in Charlottesville, Va.

In the present, please keep the residents of Houston and those in the path of Hurricane Harvey in your thoughts as that portion of our nation suffers historic rainfall and flooding. The immediate future for the people of that region is perilously uncertain.

As for the incidents in Charlottesville, I hope that two weeks of distance between today and those tragic and troublesome events has allowed us all to come to terms with our own reactions to those incidents. I also hope we have been able to gather some perspective on how such protests and counter-protests fit within the larger social issues that our nation faces today. The events in Charlottesville have occupied my mind for much of the past two weeks, as have the ripple effects we’ve seen throughout the mainstream media, social media, legal and political circles, and college campuses nationally.

Given all of that, I will say forcefully and unequivocally: “SUNY Orange is committed to the nonviolent exchange of diverse ideas and the protection of First Amendment rights for members of our College community. The College is also equally committed to protecting the safety and security of those within our College community, and will do all that is necessary to preserve an inclusive environment where peaceful dialogue is encouraged, and violent actions are not tolerated.”

I direct you to the SUNY Orange Diversity and Inclusion Plan for a deeper understanding of the inclusive environment we are dedicated to developing and maintaining. Among our College’s seven stated values are excellence, integrity and inclusivity. As I wrote in my introduction to that plan, “To build an inclusive community, there must be a foundation of integrity and an inherent appreciation of others.” I am afraid these values are losing their foothold in our society.

Sometimes, others share views that diverge greatly from our own. Their beliefs, speech and actions may be vile and offensive to us. It is clear to me that, to truly appreciate the rights afforded to us by the First Amendment, we cannot expect to stand on those rights only when they serve the purpose of allowing us to share our own views, and then limit the rights of others to express views counter to ours. At the same time, the First Amendment does not provide a framework for threatening, violent and destructive behavior in the course of expressing our views or objecting to others’. It is vitally important that we understand that difference.

I have noticed that individuals and organizations from across the country have quickly pulled together to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I wish we could have that same compassion for others when it comes to matters of race, religion, economic status or political views.

As for the incidents in Charlottesville, let me also be clear, “Bigotry, intolerance, racism and hate have no place at SUNY Orange. Neither do ignorance or violence. We may detest the views of others, but it is imperative that we understand the expectations of common decency by which every person deserves to be treated.”

This discussion reaches far beyond the views of the white supremacist and white nationalist groups we witnessed in Charlottesville. Soon there will be yet another flashpoint, and different groups will promoting their own radical views. And when that time comes, we will stand firm once again to steadfastly promote the same environment for which I am advocating today.

My intent with this note is for each of us to more deeply understand the “community” that we desire to build here at SUNY Orange, and to carry those ideals into the greater community-at-large. I urge each of us to more boldly embrace the values for which this institution stands, and I hope we can find it among ourselves to demonstrate empathy, tolerance and respect for all, in every situation in which we find ourselves. Let us not allow violence to be our default response.

On Sept. 5, SUNY Orange will welcome Lorraine Lopez-Janove as the College’s Chief Diversity Officer. She will serve in a shared CDO role for SUNY Orange, SUNY Ulster and SUNY Sullivan. Lorraine has studied and built decades of professional experience in support of diversity, inclusion, and equity in educational environments. While I am excited for her arrival, please know that I do not believe diversity and inclusion to be the chief responsibility of one person, but rather a collective promise to which we all should adhere.

 These are critical weeks to come and this may likely be a semester unlike any the College has experienced before. I welcome your feedback and input, as I wish for this dialogue to continue in a very public way. I will be outside welcoming students on the Middletown campus for much of the day on Monday (Aug. 28) and will be on the Newburgh campus greeting students on Wednesday (Aug. 30). Feel free to find me and introduce yourself. You may also connect with me via my Twitter account (@drkrisyoung), or via email if you prefer a more private outreach.

Best wishes for a successful Fall semester.

Regards,

Kris

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940
845-341-4728
Email