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May 22, 2002

Dear Colleagues and Students:

On Thursday morning, May 23, members of SFSU's General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) are holding an off-campus press conference to denounce what a news release promoting the event describes as "fomenting [of] intolerance" and "accusations by SFSU President Corrigan against Palestinian and Arab students who are members of GUPS." The news release is followed by a lengthy statement that charges "racist treatment of Palestinian students" at SFSU and alleges that recent communications from the president to the campus have evoked a "hate frenzy" against Palestinian, Muslim, and Arab students here.

This document includes statements that "...President Corrigan is capitalizing on the atmosphere of fear and fostering intolerance against Arabs and Muslims on campus, thus creating a dangerous and hostile environment...The president of the university issued a derogatory news release last week, attacking the Palestinian students...the statement constructed a hateful, discriminatory and one-sided attack on the students...

[We] and concerned citizens are gravely worried by the hate frenzy that the SFSU president stirs up in his letter."

These charges are so totally at variance with the campuswide messages calling for mutual respect, civility, and recognition of "the humanity of those with whom we disagree" that we have sent out since September 11 and the tone we have sought to set -- a tone epitomized by the "Love Is Stronger Than Hate" banners that fly across campus -- that they must be challenged, set against fact and seen for what they are extreme statements of feeling.

It is difficult enough to deal respectfully with each other in these highly-charged times; exaggerated language only drives us further apart.

You can view all our messages to the campus since September 11 at our new Web site, "SFSU's Response to Pro-Israel--Pro-Palestine Tensions on Campus." You will find there words such as these:

"We will not let terrorism change the eyes with which we view each other, the hearts with which we understand each other, the respect with which we treat each other."

"We have an absolute obligation to preserve this university as a safe and supportive community for all among us."

"As we wrestle with the passionate emotions and strongly opposing world views the Middle Eastern situation arouses, I hope that we will work consciously to speak and act in a way that recognizes the humanity of all members of our community, that sees individuals, not enemies."

"The vast majority of this campus community would condemn the hateful speech and threatening behavior we saw last Tuesday. It is a very few individuals who are fomenting this discord."

There is much we should be discussing together, about the May 7 rally and other matters. Yes, ugly statements were made to -- not just by -- pro-Palestinian students at the rally. And the cases we are forwarding to the District Attorney's office emerging from the event recognize that: they represent both sides of the gathering. (See our "SFSU's Response" web site for a news release with details of the legal and disciplinary action we have taken.)

Especially in difficult times like these, we cannot afford to escalate conflict through distortion of each others' positions. Let us disagree, but let us do so honestly. Let us use each others' words fairly, represent each others' views and actions accurately. Only then can we come together to bridge differences and join together in a positive community.

Robert A. Corrigan

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Last modified May 22, 2002, by the Office of Public Affairs