I am still shocked by what I witnessed on television today, the alarming events at the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. My emotions span a broad spectrum of feelings, from anger to sadness, and everything else in between. I’m sure that many of you are having a similar reaction to today’s events. Regardless of how we voted in the recent national elections, today’s overtaking of the U.S. Congress is unprecedented and struck at the core of what it means to live in a democracy.
Like any national incident that impacts us individually as members of a broader society, we have to take time to make meaning while also needing to be responsive to loved ones and to those we serve (i.e., each other and our students). I hope that over the next couple of days, without knowing the twists and turns that today’s events will continue to take leading up to inauguration (and beyond) that you will take the time to reflect and check-in with each other, even with those who may hold a different perspective from you.
While we take time to make meaning and connect with one another, I’m also asking that we all do our part to check-in with our students during this moment in history. Our students are also experiencing a broad range of emotions as a result of what they witnessed today and on top of everything they have experienced this past year. This is when our personal connections and relationships come into play. If you’re a student supervisor, please reach out to your student employees. If you’re a student organization advisor, please reach out to your student leaders. If you have a relationship with an individual student reach out to them. Our students are back home, living locally, and traveling during the winter recess, but we need not wait for the semester to start for us to reach out to them. Now is the time to let them know that we’re thinking of them.
Tomorrow you will receive information about opportunities for students to process as a group or through individual counseling. Please share this information directly with student groups and with individual students you know. The information will also be shared via social media. Additionally, I invite you to participate in a processing space with your colleagues on Friday, January 8 at 10am over Zoom.
This communication is not the welcome back message that I had envisioned. Still, in moments of crisis, we in Student Affairs rise to the occasion to help each other and, most importantly, show up for our students. I cannot predict what the weeks and months ahead will bring us, but we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, and there continues to be a lot of uncertainty on multiple fronts. Thank you in advance for reaching out to each other and our students during this challenging moment in history and for everything you will do in the semester ahead to support each other and our students.
Peace and Love,
Salvador B. Mena, PhD
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Rutgers University–New Brunswick