To: Members of the Skidmore Community
From: Philip A. Glotzbach, President
Date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Re: A Time for Respect – A Time for Action
The tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi on September 22nd has prompted thousands of people
speak out across our country and around the world. Many have expressed outrage at
homophobic biases and thoughtless behavior highlighted by this tragedy. Others have
the alleged actions of Tyler’s roommate and his friend in the larger context of bullying,
we know has reached disturbing proportions in our primary and secondary schools, and
all too often occurs on college and university campuses. And some have decried the
privacy that apparently led this gifted young student to take his own life. Regrettably,
violations of privacy are becoming more and more frequent in a world where a damaging
or video can “go viral” in a matter of hours.
Homophobia is not an impersonal or distant phenomenon. It touches each of us either
or through someone we know – and in many cases, someone we love – who is the target
abuse. Indeed, Tyler Clementi’s death affects the Skidmore family more immediately
some of us may realize. Tyler’s older brother James is a Skidmore graduate, a member
class of 2009. So this tragedy really is a personal one for all of us at the College.
Our hearts go
out to James and to his parents for their loss, which is our loss as well.
In a heartfelt letter to our students, Director of Health Promotion Jennifer Burden
speaks of her
own outrage at the events that prompted Tyler’s suicide and voices her fervent hope
sort of cruelty that Tyler experienced” would have no place on our campus. She also
“that Tyler could have felt [the kind of] love and support [that is now being expressed]
he made the decision to take his own life.” All of us certainly share these sentiments.
Jen reminds us, we also know that homophobic and racist incidents of intolerance do
on college and university campuses, in general, and even, regrettably, at Skidmore.
So now is the time to do more. Specifically, now is the time to rededicate ourselves
individually and collectively to making our own campus the kind of place where such
no longer occur. We are a community founded on mutual respect and dedicated to learning.
We seek to foster in our students the skills, knowledge, and dispositions required
for them to
function as responsible citizens of a democracy. And, in this context, we would do
well to call
to mind Dr. Martin Luther King’s frequent assertion that the denial of basic civil
anyone is a threat to the rights of everyone. If we are to be true to these basic
values, we must
strengthen our resolve to make Skidmore a community in which abuse directed against
someone because of that person’s identity becomes unimaginable.
Many within our community have worked, and are continuing to work, to move us to this
place. These include the Bias Response Group (which is focusing this year on issues
sexual orientation and gender bias), the Office of Student Diversity Programs, the
Pride Alliance, the Committee on Intercultural and Global Understanding, Health Services,
Counseling Center, the Center for Sex and Gender Relations, and the Office of Religious
Spiritual Life. Of particular note, the Skidmore Pride Alliance is hosting an event at 8 p.m. on
Thursday, October 14, in Davis Auditorium, at which a panel of LGBTQ students will talk
about their experiences at Skidmore and in the local community. They also will discuss
Gets Better” project – a recent attempt to reach out to young LGBTQ individuals, offering
a measure of reassurance and hope in a world that all too often can be violent and
I urge you to attend, if you can, or otherwise to consider how you can demonstrate
commitment to creating a safe community climate for everyone at Skidmore.
The deepest challenge is for each of us to act consistently towards one another in
build understanding and respect. Several years ago, a group of first-year Skidmore
initiated a campaign to remind us of these basic principles by calling for all of
us to “Give More,
Respect More, Skidmore.” Let us all resolve once again to take this exhortation to
heart and let
it guide our behavior. In fact, any one of us can be called upon at any time to make
choice that will make our community better or worse. Commenting on the events that
reportedly led to Tyler Clementi’s untimely death, columnist Cynthia Tucker writes,
This story might have ended differently if Wei had stopped her friend and high school
when he allegedly came to her room to set up the webcast. What if she had protested
fiercely? What if
she had had the courage to do what most of us find so difficult: to be a lone voice
for doing the right
If we make it our responsibility to take notice of those occasions when an ethical
called for and, yes, find the moral courage to act accordingly, then each of us can
within ourselves that “voice for doing the right thing.” It is too late to reach out
Clementi. But it is not too late for all us, acting together, to prevent any such
actions from ever
occurring again – especially on the Skidmore campus.
Give More, Respect More, Skidmore.
Let me repeat here the information provided by Jen Burden at the end of her letter.
know that you also can seek information, support, and resources at the following campus
Health Services – Jonsson Tower, First Floor (518-580-5550)
Counseling Center – Jonsson Tower, First Floor (518-580-5555)
Student Diversity Programs – Case Center, Second Floor (518-580-8212)
The Center for Sex & Gender Relations – Case Center, Third Floor (518-580-8255)
The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life – Case Center, Third Floor (518-580-8340)