Dear Members of the College of Arts and Architecture Community:
During a year when we in the college are focusing on empathy, it’s important to acknowledge how events and discussions at the national level affect us on an individual level. Recent events over the past few weeks compel me to send this message to reassure you that Penn State and the College of Arts and Architecture remain unconditionally committed to preserving a climate free from discrimination, and to sustaining a safe and welcoming campus for all members of our community, regardless of religious beliefs, races, and gender identities and expressions.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, in light of concerns expressed about the national climate for transgender individuals, President Barron reaffirmed the University’s continuing and unconditional focus on a safe and welcoming environment for everyone at Penn State (full statement).
Later that day, we learned that eleven individuals worshiping at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh were murdered in a horrific anti-Semitic attack. I offer my condolences to our students, staff, and faculty whose friends and relatives were victims of the murders on Saturday. There will be a candlelight vigil tonight, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. in front of Old Main. The University has resources available for those affected by Saturday’s events—details here.
In addition, early last week, there were assassination attempts on two former presidents and other public leaders and private citizens. These widespread acts of hatred are difficult to comprehend and impossible to accept.
We are living in challenging times. But at Penn State and in our college, we understand that the rights and welfare of all groups are fundamental to a climate of inclusiveness that allows students, faculty, staff, and visitors to work, learn, and live in a community free of harassment, prejudice, intolerance, and violence.
We will continue in our quest to build a diverse community that celebrates and welcomes all people. Racism and prejudice based on religious, ethnic, or gender identity are anathema to our University values of free expression and inquiry. (Through policies AD85 and AD91, Penn State prohibits discrimination and harassment of various forms and will hold individuals accountable for any violations.)
In a college of arts and design, where creativity is encouraged and nurtured, students have many opportunities to express themselves through their work, and their works often prompt open discussions about issues in the world today. We are fortunate to study, work, and teach in an environment where personal expression is not only valued, but appreciated as something that allows us to share our feelings and our fears.
As individuals who can vote and who can join together to promote issues we believe in, we can help change the larger society. I encourage all of you who are eligible to vote to exercise your rights as citizens in a democracy as the election approaches.
Barbara O. Korner
(Note: Some of this message was drawn from the University statement on the transgender issue)