Letter from the Dean of the College

December 4, 2008

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke Community,

This is the pain of the ages surfacing, as it does so often, and as we so regret. But it can also be the essential step towards deeper healing and a more just society. There can be no healing, however, without our acknowledgement of our participation in many social structures which privilege some and harm others.

Our college community suffers when any one of our members is harmed and when fear replaces the relative security in which most of us live. This is a story of many fears: the student who called about a “suspicious male;” the officers who feared hands in pockets concealed a weapon; a man questioned in the headlights of a squad car; and then, all of us fearing that our beloved Mount Holyoke is not in fact secure, kind, and welcoming to each of us.

Let’s pause a moment and pay attention to each our personal fears, especially those fears that have been triggered this week. Let us then try our best NOT to act out of our fears, so  we are better able to speak with each other clearly, honestly, and from our hearts. Only then can we discern our best next steps to build the community we all long to live in – a just, compassionate, and vibrant community where each of us is welcome, seen, and heard.

There are many ways for each of us to change our world here.  Learn skillful means of dialogue, mediation, and conflict transformation.  Participate in the Taboo sessions or the various community conversations.  Take or offer a course which studies the structures and processes of power and privilege.  Eat dinner with someone you don’t know well yet and have a real conversation.  Listen carefully to someone you are pretty sure you don’t like.  Be surprised!

We are all in this together.  There are no good guys and bad guys.  The line between good and bad, as Vaclav Havel reminded us, goes through each of us.  Strengthen the “good guy” in you and be in your best self right now.  There you will find your own strength and the deep resilience of our community.

With all good wishes,

Penny Gill
Dean of the College