Strengthening Our Community in Challenging Times
For many of us, the last few months have been difficult in deep and unexpected ways. The Israel-Hamas war has directly impacted many members of our community and exacerbated existing fissures in the GW community, the nation, and the world. On campus, a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia has underscored the need for safer and more supportive campus environments. Amid these heightened tensions, the university’s commitment to academic freedom and the protection of free speech has been put to the test. These events have underscored the unique role we, as a university community, should play now and in other times of crisis and uncertainty.
For more than 200 years, GW has been guided by the foundational principles of free inquiry, intellectual rigor, open dialogue, honest debate, and mutual respect. Our enduring commitment to these core tenets has made our university one of the nation’s premier academic and research institutions, with a reputation for producing the world’s leaders and changemakers. And it provides a framework that allows us to engage on difficult topics with empathy and integrity.
Informed by those principles, GW is launching a plan that builds on lessons learned and lays the groundwork for future growth. Within each focus area below, we have shared initiatives, activities, and events intended to foster meaningful engagement across our community and support the important work already underway.
This plan, while comprehensive, should also be thought of as a starting point, and we look forward to sharing updates as it evolves. We want to build upon this foundation throughout the semester with participation from all of you. As we continue to have conversations with the GW community, we will expand and improve on these efforts. Together, we will define a community ethos equal to our aspirations and our history.
As a leading institution of higher education, GW has always challenged our students, faculty, and staff to engage with the many critical and controversial issues facing society through free inquiry, intellectual rigor, open dialogue, and honest debate. However, that engagement has become more challenging in an era of extreme polarization and the weaponization of social media. The initiatives in this section will support our community in once again modeling productive, robust civil discussions across complex issues. These are difficult ideals to achieve, but it’s in such times when they are most critical.
All members of our community deserve to be treated with respect within an environment that is safe and secure, even and especially when there is deep disagreement about important issues. This section of the plan strengthens the resources available to those directly impacted by the Israel-Hamas war, antisemitism, and Islamophobia. It also outlines GW’s enhanced and renewed religious and interfaith programming more broadly. One of this section's most critical components focuses on enabling our students' direct engagement and feedback through student-organized and student-led commissions on antisemitism and Islamophobia.
GW’s policy framework must be comprehensive, consistent, and responsive to the dual imperatives of honoring free speech and creating an environment where all are free to learn. The past several months have revealed opportunities to balance these critical aspects of our university with greater consistency and transparency. A commitment to community and mutual respect alongside a robust environment of academic freedom, free expression, and freedom of speech should run through all GW policies. This section outlines plans to strengthen these elements of our university and community life.