View from the Loge: April 30

April 30, 2024

View from the Loge

April 30, 2024

Up until a few days ago I was planning to use this space to reassure you that you’ll be fine and remind you that exams are a test of a moment, not a judgment on your character. I was going to highlight individual victories, like your colleague who went from panicking about not having anything this summer to landing a paid internship for the summer and a different internship for the fall in the course of a few days.

Everything I would have said is true and important. You’ll be fine - you’re smart, interesting, hard-working people. People like that are always in demand. But the world and the week had other plans, as they often do.

I’ve been struggling with what to say about the protests. I want the perfect take, the magical 500 words that will sum it all up for everyone so that everyone says “Yes, that’s it!” I don’t have those words. What I have instead are lots of thoughts, feelings and questions. All of which I will save for another time.

Right now, I want to acknowledge that most of us are exhausted and stressed. Your colleagues at The Hatchet are doing remarkable journalism while also trying to write final papers and study for exams - and in some cases getting criticized for doing their jobs. Your colleagues who are activists are making hard choices about when and how to act, and facing unknown and potentially very serious consequences for those choices. Some are torn between doing what they think others expect and what they want to do. Others are trying to balance priorities, friendships, and self-care. Many are afraid the protesters, intentionally or not, are attacking their right to live and pray as and where they do. All of this while many of you are wondering about graduation, and if you will be denied a chance to celebrate at all. April is a lot in a normal year, and this is far from a normal year.  

As I tell anyone who will listen, our faculty, staff, and students study, shape and report the news that matters. What’s going on in Gaza and on the steps of SMPA matters. You are the scholars, activists and journalists of this moment. But more importantly, you’re people. You’re members of the SMPA community.  Be there for each other. Offer a shoulder when a colleague needs it. Encourage and lean on each other. Call on a trusted professor or member of SMPA’s staff. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other.

Members of our community have close ties to Palestine and to Israel. They practice a number of faiths. They see the signs that say “go home” and hear the chants and wonder if SMPA and GW value them as human beings. Many in our community are tired, angry and frustrated. Ensure that your actions strengthen our ties rather than fray them. Remember that what you say may not be what people hear. None of us are at our best when we’re tired and stressed, so forgive outbursts when you can.

This has been a hard year. But we will get through this. You will learn from this and from each other, just as I am learning from you. We will do this on campus, off campus, over the summer, and after you graduate. As you know from all the alumni who teach and guest lecture in SMPA, who mentor and get coffee with students, and who send us jobs and internships, the SMPA community doesn’t end at graduation. This is a week and a year you will carry with you as a community for a long time.

I know and trust you. There is no other group of students, anywhere, I would rather teach and learn from. I also know this is difficult and exhausting, and that everyone is doing the best they can. You are smart, interesting, hard-working people. You are part of a strong community. You will be fine, and SMPA will always be here for you.

We got this.