President Jones’ Statement on the Columbia University Protests

President Jones’ Statement on the Columbia University Protests

Categories: In the News, Press Releases

Dear Union Community, 

Given the twisting of truth, outright lies, and relentlessly hateful speech that our present social media culture encourages, I have become increasingly less confident that writing public letters is a useful way to achieve meaningful change.  That said, today, as the sirens blared by my window and hundreds of NYPD flood onto the scene at Columbia, I find myself unable to hold back and not write to you.

First, I am writing to make sure that everyone at Union knows that a wide range of support is here for any student, staff, or faculty who are in need of support.  This is a horrible, awful day in the midst of ravaging, cruel times.  It breaks us all. Please do not be afraid to reach out.

Second, on behalf of Union, I want to reaffirm what I hope everyone at Union knows.  We have never and will never take the actions that occurred today, including to some of our students.  Whatever our differences, all of your voices and values are too important to me and to Union to shove them away and dispose of them.  I firmly believe campuses need to be places where lively, rigorous debate happens, where we struggle together to find better ways to live together on this planet, and where students have the chance to find and strengthen their voices, experience the power of collective action, and learn to be passionate, engaged citizens, particularly working alongside those with limited power who suffer under the crushing force of unjust policies, structures, and actions.  These precious values do not flourish when protests are squashed.  Democracy itself cannot flourish.

Third, Union has a strict policy that prohibits the NYPD from entering our campus, except in the rare situation where a serious crime has been committed.  You have our commitment to enforcing this policy fully and strongly. I have your back.

Fourth, at Union, our long-standing commitment to social justice is manifest daily in how we, as an institution, live out loud in a world that does not share these values.  It is not an easy thing to do but do it we must, without arrogance or self-righteousness.  We are far from perfect, but with our strong hearts, critical minds, and activated bodies, we can, through our example, be a force for change. Keep going.

Finally, we are not and must not avert our eyes or turn our souls away from Gaza and Israel and the oppressions crushing so many peoples’ lives around the world, including right here in our own nation.  To stay strong in the face of such horrifying forces of death, we must remember the hard truth that even when we disagree, we need each other; we need to gently care for each other and try as hard as we can to not carelessly inflict upon each other the very things we detest.  I do not say this with a sense of ease because it is hard work to be a community. But don’t give up on it.  The aching, yearning world cannot afford for you to do so.

Dear friends, the tides of intolerance are turning against the humanity in us all. I promise to stand beside you as we try to turn that tide towards love, towards justice, towards the embrace of our fragile human and planetary life.  I am tired, sad, overwhelmed, and torn up inside, as I am sure many of you are.  I promise to be with you in your weariness as well.

President Serene Jones


About Union Theological Seminary

Union Theological Seminary (UTS), founded in 1836 in New York City, is a globally recognized seminary and graduate school of theology where faith and scholarship meet to reimagine the work of justice. A beacon for social justice and progressive change, Union Theological Seminary is led by a diverse group of theologians and activist leaders. Drawing on both Christian traditions and the insights of other faiths, the institution is focused on educating leaders who can address critical issues like racial equity, criminal justice reform, income inequality, and protecting the environment. Union is led by Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, the 16th President and the first woman to head the 187-year-old seminary.