Message From The President - Baruch College

December 5, 2016

Supporting and Protecting All Members of the Baruch College Community

TO: The Baruch College Community,

Last Friday evening, an event is reported to have occurred in the subway very near our campus that must be of concern to all of us. A member of our community, a first-year student of the Muslim faith, has stated that she was harassed on a train simply for wearing a hijab, which is the head covering that observant Muslim women wear when they are out in public. According to the student, three men approached her shouting the name of the President-elect and demanding that she leave the country, after which they attempted to remove her hijab. Fortunately, our student was not physically harmed and was eventually able to escape her tormentors, at which point she reported the incident to the police. Hopefully, the authorities will be able to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice for this hate crime. Beyond the fact that the incident happened at all, it is particularly troubling that no one in the subway car reportedly made an effort to come to the student’s assistance.

I want to underscore my view that, in addition to ensuring that Baruch College is a safe and nurturing place for our students, faculty, and staff to study and work, we all have a responsibility to watch out for and help protect our colleagues and neighbors during this troubling time. Where feasible, I hope that classmates and work colleagues will help safely escort through the public transit system members of the College community, of whatever faith, whose religion requires that they wear distinctive garments or head coverings. (There is also a service where people can sign up to escort to/from work or school on public transportation racial and religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ community, and anyone else who has experienced or is concerned about experiencing violence in New York City, and where those same people can obtain escorts when they fear for their safety.) I also urge those inclined to show solidarity with the concerns of our undocumented students, our religiously observant students, and other groups whose safety and security may be threatened to participate in the “Safety Pin Campaign,” which is intended to demonstrate our commitment to making Baruch College and New York City safe places.  I definitely will be wearing my pin!

We must not allow the passions of the recent presidential election campaign to fester and penetrate into our daily life, thereby making the kind of incident that allegedly occurred last Friday seem somehow commonplace or acceptable.  It is most definitely not acceptable, and we must be united in demonstrating by words and deeds our firm opposition to hate speech, hate crimes, and intolerance of any kind. (You can report such incidents to the Office of the Dean of Students or to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Compliance.)

As the Spanish philosopher, George Santayana, famously stated: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  We know from history what happens when people do not stand up to hateful words and behavior. So let us resolve that this will not be tolerated in our community.

With care and concern,

Mitchel B. Wallerstein
President, Baruch College