Flexibility and compassion for students and others in these dark times

November 13, 2023

The Chancellor, I, and other campus administrators have been hearing from and meeting with representatives of the Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Palestinian, and other communities on campus. Common to those discussions was the high level of fear, anxiety, and loss that members of those communities have suffered and are suffering. Some have lost friends and family due to the conflict and more worry about the wellbeing of those they care about who live in the region. Students have reported receiving hateful messages and suffering reprisals for exercising their rights to free speech in the form of doxxing and other acts of intimidation. 

In such circumstances, it is inevitable that some students will need flexibility in terms of completing coursework and with examinations. Information about our accommodation policies and other supportive measures may be found at https://evcp.berkeley.edu/programs-resources/academic-accommodations-hub. While it is important to be familiar with our policies, I encourage everyone to be sensitive to the spirit, as well as the specifics, of those policies. Our goal is that every student be successful and, thus, we should assess requests for academic flexibility with compassion, generosity, and from a mindset of what is best for the student.

Additionally, the students with whom the Chancellor, I, and others have met and heard from, expressed a fear that their political beliefs, religion, and/or ethnicity would have an effect on their grades and other evaluations. Our students would appreciate your reassuring them in that regard by your reaffirming your commitment not to discriminate against students on political grounds nor to discriminate against them based upon any protected class, including religion or ethnic/national origin. Moreover, students would appreciate being reassured that their coursework will not be evaluated by criteria other than that directly reflective of course performance.

At this moment, I believe that we will all do well to reflect on the wisdom of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Especially at a university whose motto is Fiat Lux, we must all strive to be sources of light and not darkness. Let us behave with compassion and give others the benefit of the doubt and grace that we would like to be given ourselves.

In community,

Benjamin E. Hermalin
Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost

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