Office of the President

The Importance of Community

October 12, 2023

Dear Obies,

As many of you prepare for fall break, I could not let you leave without telling you what has been weighing on my spirit. Some of you are already heading home, others are embarking on short-term professional experiences, and others will remain on campus. But despite our momentary departure from each other, the violence that erupted in Israel and Gaza will still be with us when we return to campus.

As I have heard from many of you about the events of the past week, there is no doubt that all of us, no matter your race, religion, nationality, or creed, are being impacted by actions and images that we cannot avoid. Many members of our community are in pain. Some of our Jewish students, colleagues, and alumni have expressed that this is yet another brutal reminder of their vulnerability, of rising antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world. Some of our Muslim students, colleagues, and alumni have expressed that they are concerned about the loss of life, Islamophobia, collective blame and reprisals, and are worried about violence and discrimination. And more broadly, we are all connected to the human condition that is all too often laid bare when violent conflict is the course of action.

The question before us at Oberlin, as we live in community, is how will we engage with each other when the world is unraveling? We come to Oberlin with the expectation that we will live and learn together. We come to Oberlin from diverse backgrounds, believing that we can respect each other and have tolerance for points of view that are different from our own. We come to Oberlin with the hope that through the recognition of our common humanity, we will embrace a commitment to making the world a better place.

These are noble aspirations, and the times we are in are testing us. As you contemplate these challenges, I hope you will consider what will be necessary for our community to meet this moment. This will require deep empathy and compassion for people whose views may be different than your own, but whose pain is just as raw. Even as we express ourselves, this will require a measured approach that may not always come easily, but is essential because of our commitment to this community.

As we pray for peace, we know that the ripple effect of this violence will broaden and deepen, and the inevitable human toll will forever change many communities. We must steadfastly embrace the values we sought when we came to Oberlin. We must avoid separation and devolving into otherness, blame, and suspicion. There is no room for hate speech or discrimination of any kind. There is, however, room for difference.

I know this balance can seem unachievable. Yet, I know we have to try. As we depart from each other, let us take this opportunity to meditate on what will be required of each of us upon our return.

Despite the conflict and violence we are witnessing, I am compelled to find strength and hope in our shared humanity. May we return to Oberlin with a sense of our dedication to community and with a love and care and respect for each other.

Carmen Twillie Ambar