April 13, 2024

Dear Members of the HWS Community,

Earlier this week, Professor of Politics Jodi Dean wrote a piece for Verso on the war in Israel and Gaza. She spoke about feeling exhilarated and energized by the paragliders on October 7, an event that has led to so much brutality against civilians in Israel and Gaza. Not only am I in complete disagreement with Professor Dean, I find her comments repugnant, condemn them unequivocally, and want to make clear that these are her personal views and not those of our institution. 

One of my priorities as president is to build an intellectually vibrant and relationship-rich campus community. Our faculty and staff have worked earnestly in the months since October to do just that. With the leadership and expertise of faculty in International Relations and Religious Studies, we have created spaces for conversation, exchanged ideas, sought common ground, and engaged in dialogue across difference. This is difficult but worthwhile work and I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and hopeful of what more we can do. 

The Colleges recognize and affirm the importance of free dialogue on ideas. We have worked tirelessly to create an environment where we can discuss hard issues upon which we may disagree.  But we can never and will never condone or praise violence, particularly when that violence is directed at individuals based on their religion, race or national origin.

I deeply regret that as a result of Professor Dean’s comments, there now may be students on our campus who feel threatened in or outside of the classroom. Again, her words do not represent Hobart and William Smith, and the Colleges are taking swift action to ensure that our students are fully supported and that their educational experience here is not impacted. I have asked the Provost and Dean of Faculty to work with faculty and institutional leadership to investigate this matter so we can properly and fairly respond. While this work is underway, Professor Dean has been relieved of classroom duties.  

An alumnus wrote to me a day ago, reminding me quite poignantly of just how challenging a time this is to be Jewish, Palestinian, Arab, Israeli or Muslim on a college campus. We all share the responsibility to make certain that we are not making this an even more challenging time. You have my personal commitment that we will continue to keep the wellbeing of students and their education as our unwavering focus. 


Mark D. Gearan

April 15, 2024

Dear Colleagues and Students,

It became clear over the weekend that it would be helpful to provide the community with a more expansive explanation of the actions taken last week.

Let me be clear: Professor Dean has the right to express her views just as President Gearan has the right to find those views reprehensible and to condemn them. It is also true that Hobart and William Smith has the obligation under federal anti-discrimination laws, including Title VI, to investigate and take prompt action where the possibility exists that there is a hostile environment based on national origin, shared ancestry, or other protected classes that may interfere with a student’s ability to learn and enjoy the benefits of an education.

In the Department of Education’s Dear Colleague letter last November, the Biden Administration was very clear that colleges and universities must act swiftly to investigate when they know or should know of a hostile environment based on national origin and take prompt actions to address the situation.

I want to assure you that Academic Freedom is one of our core values, as is the obligation to create an environment where all of our students can thrive. We are committed to a fair and expeditious process to vet all of these issues.

As HWS investigates, the institution has taken an interim step and relieved Professor Dean of her teaching duties for the remainder of the semester. She is continuing to be paid and the Colleges have not limited Professor Dean’s ability to continue her scholarship, publishing and writing or to speak her mind.


Sarah Kirk
Provost and Dean of Faculty