Statement by Chancellor Robert E. Johnson

"It is only through civil discourse in a free and open society that we can deprive hate of its oxygen..."

Dr. Robert E. Johnson talking with students at the Claire T. Carney Library

Like millions across the nation, I was shocked and saddened by the wanton display of white supremacist, neo-Nazi hatred unleashed in Charlottesville Saturday. I was also angered, and I felt a strong urge to express what I was feeling in the moment, perhaps via social networks or media statement. Instead, I decided to reflect about what I had been witnessing, and avoid the trap of adding heat rather than light to the conversation.

The truth is that none of us should be surprised by what happened, given the recent growth and increasing boldness of such extremist groups. Rather than bend to the temptations of anger and despair, however, we must choose a better way. It is only through civil discourse in a free and open society that we can deprive hate of its oxygen and authentically work out differences of thought and ideas. This requires empathy, a willingness to learn, and even courage. Only then will we honor the lives of the young activist Heather Heyer, and the two state police officers, Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who died in the pursuit of justice.

As we begin to welcome our students back to campus, UMass Dartmouth steadfastly stands with the University of Virginia and all universities across this nation in protecting freedom of thought and speech while striving to extinguish ignorance and discrimination.


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