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Our Northwestern Values

This is a moment for us to pull together, to support each other, and seek common ground.”

Dear members of the Northwestern community,

Earlier this week, I circulated a communication to our senior leadership stating my view that I should not as the president of Northwestern make statements on behalf of the entire University on “political, geopolitical or social issues that do not directly impact the core mission of our University.” This belief is based upon the principles of academic freedom and free expression that undergird our institution and allow for a multiplicity of views on these types of matters.

I also wrote in my message that “I am deeply repulsed, sickened and disappointed by what Hamas has done. Kidnapping, beheading, murdering people — children and adults, civilians and people in the armed forces — is horrific and inhuman, pure and simple.”

Some members of our community have read my communication to suggest that I believe that the University as an entity should not be governed by a set of values … that everything is relative. Let me be very clear — we are absolutely guided by a set of shared values. Among the values at Northwestern that we all share and embrace individually and collectively are commitments to free speech, rational discourse, scientific inquiry, diversity, the dignity of humanity and an abhorrence of antisemitism and racism. The abhorrent and horrific actions of Hamas on Saturday are clearly antithetical to Northwestern’s values — as well as my own. Whatever we might feel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, our shared humanity should lead us all to condemn these barbaric acts.

One more value that I know we share at Northwestern is care and compassion for one another. Our students, our faculty, our staff and our entire community are in pain. This is a moment for us to pull together, to support each other, and seek common ground. That does not mean we need to agree with each other about divisive issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But we must have empathy for each other and strive to build understanding.

As I write this message, an escalation of the war seems imminent. I know I can speak for our entire community in mourning the loss of life and great human suffering that has already occurred among both Israelis and Palestinians. I also pray for peace to come to that region of the world.