Dear Liberal Arts Undergraduates:
Last week, I learned that a meeting being hosted by the Penn State Black Caucus during the Student Involvement Fair was hijacked by approximately fifty individuals who used it as an opportunity to racially harass and intimidate attendees. According to a message sent by President Barron to the Penn State community this weekend, this is just one of the several “Zoom-bombing” incidents that have occurred this semester threatening people of color and others within our community.
To those of you who were attending any of the events when these incidents happened, I am deeply sorry, angry, and disappointed that they occurred. As I said in a separate message to members of the Black Caucus, our students deserve a campus environment in which they can thrive, be their best selves, and most importantly, be safe. Please know that your Dean’s Office, and the Liberal Arts community, stand with you. Also know that we support Penn State’s steps to identify the assailants involved in these attacks and hold them accountable, and we will do whatever we can to support those efforts. In the meantime, please see these guidelines for preventing and managing Zoom-bombing attacks. For those of you in need of their services right now, please also do not hesitate to reach out to the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services or Multicultural Resource Center.
As I mentioned in my last message to you, the rising number of voices demanding an end to systemic racism and an honest reckoning with past injustices make me hopeful that we can move toward meaningful social reconciliation. At the same time, incidents like the recent Zoom-bombing are stark reminders of how much work remains. It is also a welcome reminder of the important role that an education firmly rooted in the liberal arts plays in analyzing our past, and valuing the diversity of humanity, in order to make ethical, informed decisions in the present that lead us to where we hope to be as participating members of a global society.
Further echoing my message from two weeks ago, please know that as dean I will make every effort to ensure that our college offers you the support and resources you need to navigate these challenging times. In return, I ask that you read broadly, think deeply, take perspective, care for yourselves and others, and work steadily toward the common good. I trust that we all want the world to be a better place, and I hope we will all bear our share of responsibility for making that happen.
Please continue to be smart, be safe, and be well.
Susan Welch Dean of the College of the Liberal Arts
Professor of African American Studies
The Pennsylvania State University
111 Sparks Building
University Park, PA 16802