November 3, 2023
Dear Pratt Community,
We are deeply aware of the impact the Israel-Hamas War has had on the Pratt community. The past few weeks have brought increased worry and stress for many of our students, faculty, and staff, especially for our Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, and Israeli community members who have expressed fears for their personal safety and well-being. Pratt is committed to creating a safe and supportive campus environment for everyone, regardless of religious or political affiliation. We condemn the killing of innocent people and we encourage those who seek peaceful resolution and an end to violence. At Pratt, we actively denounce xenophobia, racism, bigotry, prejudice, bullying, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and religious intolerance of any kind. It is the responsibility of each and every Pratt community member to create a culture in which everyone can thrive without fear of hate, bias, discrimination, and/or harassment.
As an academic institution, we are also committed to creating an environment for the safe, free expression of multiple views, respectful discourse, and debate. Pratt’s Board of Trustees reinforced this commitment in a resolution on freedom of expression in 1992:
“Pratt Institute supports and upholds freedom of speech and other forms of expression because these freedoms are essential to an educational mission and to ideas, values, and opinions. At the same time, Pratt recognizes that such freedoms exist in the context of law and responsibility by one’s actions and, therefore, the exercise of these rights must not deny the same rights of others.”
Now, as in 1992, this resolution calls our community to embrace a level of responsibility for ourselves and each other; of wise discourse and peaceful, productive actions; of respect for academic freedom and freedom of speech; as well as a respect for one another, empathy, and tolerance for diverse ideas. We recognize that much has changed since 1992, before the chaotic dissonance of digital media grew to what it is today, rapidly bombarding us with a multitude of conflicting opinions. More than ever, this challenges the Institute to uphold the Board’s resolution and create critical learning opportunities to help students find their way through the chaos.
For this to happen, Pratt is responsible for providing the support, guidance, and services that create a safe and trusted space for all and continuing to develop additional guidance in collaboration with members of the Pratt community. To this end, we will:
- offer guidance and clear interpretation of the Board of Trustees’ 1992 resolution on freedom of speech;
- reinforce our Community Standards (for students) (for faculty and staff), and Nondiscrimination and Harassment policies;
- ensure compliance with existing event policies that guide the development, publicizing, and running of events;
- provide additional guidelines and protocol for space requests, campus demonstrations, and event sponsorship through academic departments and Student Affairs; and
- monitor and update our DEI and Interfaith efforts to ensure they are responsive to our most marginalized and vulnerable communities.
Members of the community who are experiencing distress or do not feel safe should contact Campus Safety with any immediate concerns. This and many other Safety and Support Resources are available on Pratt’s website.
This is a tremendously stressful and complex situation that will continue to develop over the coming months. Pratt’s administrators and faculty have been in conversation with concerned and hurting community members, with colleagues in other academic institutions who are experiencing similar distress, and among ourselves to plan opportunities for dialogue and to build a network of care embedded in our day-to-day work. Being true to our work is in Pratt’s DNA and in our mission, and will help guide us together through this crisis.
Chief of Staff to the President
Joseph M. Hemway
Vice President for Information Technology and CIO
James J. Kempster
Vice President for Communications and Marketing
Vice President for Finance and Administration
Delmy M. Lendof
Vice President for Student Affairs
Vice President for Enrollment Management
Nsombi B. Ricketts
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Interim Vice President for Institutional Advancement