Message from the Dean of Students and the Chief Diversity Officer

The following message was distributed to Webster University students on Jan. 10, 2020.

To our students:

After a tumultuous and turbulent year, all of us were certainly ready to say goodbye to 2020 and move quickly into 2021 with a sense of hope and renewal, as we looked forward to the new semester. 

Sadly, the events in Washington, D.C., on January 6 brought that notion to an unceremonious halt, leaving many to feel shocked, saddened and even angered. What we saw on that day was violence that disrupted a constitutionally mandated process, an unprecedented event that has shaken our democracy. Violence is never the answer. We condemn the violence that took the life of a police officer that day. What we all witnessed that day is abhorrent and unacceptable on many levels, from the misinformed rhetoric that ignited riotous behavior, to the visible reinforcement of the racism that our society has yet to resolve. We are disturbed by the inconsistent police response to the rioters. We support the investigations that have been launched into the differences between how these rioters were treated by the police when compared to how BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) demonstrators were treated at Black Lives Matter rallies.  Racism has no place in our society. The racist and anti-Semitic messages on display from the rioters must be condemned.

In November, prior to the U.S. presidential elections, Chancellor Stroble and President Schuster sent out a communication to the entire University community, cautioning us not to see the elections “…as an opportunity to diminish or belittle others because of their perspectives about the results.” They also reminded us about the importance of respecting each other's opinions, valuing input from others, and working together as we continue to learn and grow as individuals and evolve as a community. 

In the coming days, we should all heed that advice. Dialogue and civil discourse have always been tenets of higher education and the university experience. It is important for us all to learn about viewpoints and ideas that diverge from our own. That is fundamental to the learning experience; otherwise we are constructing an echo chamber. This is now an important moment in history for us to examine how and why it came about, along with how such violence can be prevented in the future.

For over 100 years, Webster has embraced diverse perspectives and backgrounds and provided opportunities for individuals with divergent perspectives to come together to learn – not just in the U.S., but around the world. We must uphold our responsibility and obligation to seek opportunities for dialogue, even when the topics are emotionally and racially charged. That, in part, is what it means to become a global citizen. Put another way, Webster cannot be who we purport ourselves to be if we neglect this essential responsibility. We must call out, name, and discuss the anti-democratic, racist, and alienating misinformation that threatens to divide our community. 

To encourage and continue this work, we will be welcoming two speakers to engage with the entire Webster community and continue to promote the kind of civil engagement we need now.  Tomorrow, January 11, we have the opportunity to welcome Symone Sanders, the incoming chief spokesperson for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.  On February 4, we will welcome Michael Steele, former chairperson of the Republican National Committee, to engage with us. Information for tomorrow’s virtual program can be found here

There’s no way to ignore what is happening around us right now. Constant media coverage coupled with our own social media scrolling habits can lead to feelings of confusion, isolation, anger, and other reactions that are very real.  It’s important to take care of one another and also remember the University has counseling resources for all students. Students can call the Counseling and Life Development office at (314) 968-7030 or e-mail (for non-confidential contacts) to make an appointment.

Both of us will also remain open to contact from you if you need our support or if you want to discuss the events of the past week, the semester ahead, or how we can be supportive to our community’s needs. 

Knowledge is the power that drives a vital democracy. From the events of the past week, we know how fragile democracy can be and the work we all must do. Our work together is to provide all of you with a rich educational experience this next semester and throughout your time at Webster. Working together we can all advance education, bolster democratic systems, and fight racism. We can make our community kinder and more understanding. That’s how we will make 2021 a success.  

John Buck, D.Mgt.
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students

Vincent C. Flewellen
Chief Diversity Officer

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