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Chancellor letter to parents, Oct 3, 2001
Dear Syracuse Parents:
We at Syracuse University have been deeply affected by the tragedies of September 11. As parents of our students, you have legitimate concerns about the health and safety of your sons and daughters during this difficult time.
I am writing to assure you that your children are in good hands. Though not unscathed by the tragedy, we have taken timely and appropriate measures in response to it: tightening security on campus and at our international centers, disseminating continually updated information about the crisis, expanding counseling services, and offering opportunities for prayer, discussion, and service.
Immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, we provided students with emergency contact information and free long-distance calling. Frequent e-mail updates on University activities were sent to every student and every member of the faculty and staff. Meetings were held in the residence halls to alert students to safety and security issues, as well as the programs and services available to them. We asked faculty to hold classes as usual, responding flexibly to students’ needs to talk about the tragedy or deal with personal crises. Radios and television monitors across campus broadcast the latest news, and in Hendricks Chapel there were daily briefings on the events as they unfolded. Several buildings and dining centers remained open 24 hours a day to provide sustenance and gathering places. Our chaplains, residence hall directors, and Counseling Center staff made themselves available for students needing help in dealing with the tragedy. The University also guaranteed that it would cover the tuition of any student who lost a parent or who needs financial assistance as a result of the attacks.
Similar services have been provided to students in our Division of International Programs Abroad (DIPA), who, being far from home, may feel especially anxious. All the international centers receive regular updates from the Department of State and are in daily communication with the DIPA office in Syracuse. A plan is in place to notify all staff and students if an emergency should arise.
We have made a concerted effort to ensure that students are receiving accurate information and a variety of perspectives on the crisis. The Dean of Students Office disseminated a “Faculty Guide to Facilitating Classroom Discussions Related to the World Trade Center and Pentagon Attacks of September 11, 2001.” The University Library compiled information packages for students and others about the events and their aftermath. A number of campus units have held teach-ins and forums on such topics as Islam, and media coverage of the September 11 attacks. A committee chaired by David Rubin, dean of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, is developing a series of programs for this semester in which faculty experts can lead students and others in discussion of the attacks. Many other lectures and discussions are being planned.
Our students have been part of a wonderful outpouring of support for the victims and for each other. On September 20 many students joined me and other senior administrators on a march from University Hill to Clinton Square to attend a city-wide time of remembrance. On campus there have been blood drives, candlelight vigils, interfaith services, “Evenings of Compassion,” and fund-raising projects, including a Syracuse University September 11 Fund to assist students who were directly affected by the attacks. Collection bins overflowed with socks and T-shirts for rescue workers. White ribbons were distributed as a symbol of support for the victims of the attacks. Students gathered to express emotions by writing or drawing or just talking.
In the midst of this turmoil it has been important for us to remember and recommit to our essential mission, which is the pursuit of truth. I have asked the campus community to refrain from rushing to judgment on who may have committed these acts of terrorism. We must not blame any person or group on the basis of religion or nationality or color. Certainly the University will not tolerate any hate crimes in response to the acts. It is only in the context of an orderly, respectful environment that the pursuit of truth can proceed unhindered.
As an institution, we know that the world is changed, and we have begun to plan for an uncertain future. We strive to make this as safe a place as possible; we will plan for fiscal tightening if this should be necessary. And we will insure that the pursuit of truth is not compromised. In other words, drawing on the rich intellectual and spiritual resources of this community, we will do what needs to be done, and in the process grow even stronger. I greatly appreciate your continuing loyalty to and support of Syracuse University.
Kenneth A. Shaw
P.S. Please feel free to discuss any concerns you may have with Colleen O’Connor Bench, director of the Parents Office (315-443-1200). You may wish to visit the University’s News Services web page (http://sunews.syr.edu/) for regularly updated information.