The following message was issued to all DCC students on Thursday, October 12, 2023.
To our students:
I write to you today on behalf of our DCC staff and faculty, from the privileged position as your leaders in this vibrant, beautiful living-learning community. Compared to other teachers, we have the immense honor of being able to see, interact with, and support you in so many capacities—not just as students, but as creatives, community members, and aspiring changemakers. Because of this, we feel everyday an immense responsibility to acknowledge and care for you as full persons and to try, always, to enact the values that ground this program as more than an academic effort, but as a higher endeavor to help you become your strongest, most fulfilled selves.
Over the past week, we have seen you learning, reaching out to connect, and mobilizing to respond to the most recent surge of unfathomable violence in the Middle East. You are strong—and, we know that many of you are exhibiting this strength while enduring unimaginable suffering. Many members of our community have family, loved ones, long histories, and treasured memories in Israel, Gaza, and Palestine, and they are navigating unspeakable grief and fear as the violence escalates. For them, this is not a conflict halfway around the globe; it is lived and felt in their homes and in the very fibers of their being. They carry it with them wherever they go, and with whomever they speak, and we owe it to one another to acknowledge that this pain should be all of ours to carry, together. The violence is likely to spread throughout the region and the world and, no matter who you are or where your family comes from, violence damages us all—in mind, in soul, in matter.
Some of you are already acutely aware that your generation, in particular, is coming of age in a time when we have more access to the images and sounds of violence than ever before; it's in your pocket, on your phone, at all times. The unthinkable has become normal, and the impacts of that horrifying fact will materialize in your lives, your relationships, and your aspirations for a lifetime to come. Reckoning with this—while consistently trying to learn basic human autonomy, discover your own values and principles, establish social bonds, explore new activities, and succeed academically and professionally—is an exceptionally difficult task beyond reasonable expectation.
And so, in this moment, our staff and faculty wish to seize upon the little power we have within this massive institution to impress upon you the seriousness of this moment; to remove barriers that may make you hesitant to seek support; to lessen your load, where we can, as you may be navigating grief, fear, or stress that you cannot control; and to model healthy ways of responding to violence and trauma that center human life and living, not work or academic output. We want, above all else, to remind you that your humanity in this moment is of paramount importance.
Effectively immediately, program-wide, and with the unanimous consent of our faculty and staff:
- Attendance will not be monitored or recorded in any DCC course for the next two weeks, through Friday, October 27.
- If any student thinks they would benefit from extra time on any assignment due on or before Friday, October 27, they can send an email to their DCC faculty member. In the subject line, write the name of the assignment. In the body of the email, type one single word: "Reprieve." You will be granted an extension until October 31, 2023, no questions asked.
- All DCC instructors are empowered to take additional steps to alter their course rhythms, deadlines, and/or class activities to provide for further support, whether on a case-by-case or course-wide basis.
It is our hope that some of you will activate this policy in order to reclaim time for grief, mourning, and acts of repair and nourishment—such as spending time with loved ones or seeking out avenues for participating in positive change. Some of you may activate this policy because you are reminded in this moment how precious human life is, and how little time we have, and you are compelled to rethink how you are spending it, with whom, and for what. Some of you may activate this policy in order to seek out moments or experiences of joy, in defiance of those who wish to tear it from you and replace it with fear or hatred. Some of you may see no need for this policy, but we ask you to recognize that your manner of response to this moment is yours alone and none among us is entitled to judge another for how they manage or cope with crisis. And, still yet, some of you may give very little attention to this message now but may one day remember it when tragedy strikes again and recall how you were encouraged not to simply power through, but to acknowledge and affirm your needs with dignity and pride.
For everyone, we hope you will see this as we do: an act of care, pursued with an abundance of love. We don't want to just offer grace when asked for help; we want to extend it before you even need to ask. We don't want anyone in our community to wonder, even for a second, if their need for support or reprieve would be minimized or rejected. We don't want anyone to think that their feelings of sadness, overwhelm, distraction, or detachment are abnormal, invalid, or unwarranted. And, we want to remind each and every one of you that it is not a sign of weakness to accept help; it does not mean you are irresponsible or any less committed to your studies if you feel an impulse to lean away from work when you are confronted with violence and crisis in our world. It means, only, that you are human. And, the world desperately needs your humanity right now.
It is an immense gift to be in community with all of you, in good times and in bad. When it seems impossible to make a difference, in matters so big and seemingly so far away, I hope we'll all turn to each other, right here where we are, and discover new ways of being kind and caring for one another.
With tremendous love,
Dr. Jessica H. Lu
Associate Director, DCC