May 2, 2024

Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

Yesterday in the course of routine maintenance, our Buildings and Grounds staff discovered a partially burned Palestinian flag near Sherrill Hall. We do not yet know when the flag was burned or by whom, however it is a disgraceful act that is utterly antithetical to our values and has no place on our campus. Every one of our students, faculty and staff has the right to study and work without fear of intimidation — and Hobart and William Smith has the duty to ensure that our campus environment upholds that right.

The Office of Campus Safety immediately began an investigation and has increased security measures on campus. If you know anything about this incident, I encourage you to reach out to Campus Safety at 315-781-3000. Support services for our community remain available at the Counseling Center and through the Office of Spiritual Engagement. A complete list of resources is available at the bottom of this email.

As we head into finals next week and then our Commencement celebrations, I want to be clear that the safety and wellbeing of our community remains my top priority. We want to ensure that the reading period allows for the necessary preparation for the successful close of the academic semester. We also realize that for a number of our own HWS community members, the devastating war that continues to unfold in the Middle East is a real and present danger to friends, family and loved ones, both Palestinian and Israeli. We see the challenges in our own nation on college and university campuses, often with repercussions that include Islamophobia and Antisemitism.

I am grateful for the dialogues we have had this year and the thoughtful discourse that has informed us all. We are committed to continuing to listen and learn and to benefit from conversations with students, faculty and staff on approaches for enhanced dialogue and learning in the coming academic year.


Mark D. Gearan