William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe issued the following message Wednesday. – Ed.

The violence unfolding in Israel and Gaza this week surpasses shock and anguish; it goes beyond what many of us have seen in our lifetimes. We hold all those affected by this growing conflict and its immeasurable tragedies in our thoughts. At this time of distress, anger and grief, William & Mary affirms our commitment to supporting our students, staff and faculty. Their safety, and the values of respect and belonging that anchor this educational community, are our highest priority.

Our vision reminds us that “people come to William & Mary wanting to understand and change the world.” The roots of conflict in this region are deep. We cannot expect a community as large and diverse as William & Mary’s to hold the same understanding of them. Yet one thing must be clear: terrorism should never be condoned and will not be condoned by this university. The brutal terrorism against Israeli civilians perpetrated by Hamas in recent days is abhorrent. In seeking to better understand our world and one another, each of us must be a change agent for peace.

As we go to Fall Break, pausing to reflect even as emotions are high, we must hold firm to these commitments: that civil discourse and respect are central to our community of learning. At times of fear and anger, the risk of all kinds of bias, including antisemitism, is always heightened. At William & Mary, the way to counter that risk is to challenge ideas, not persons, even and most especially when we passionately disagree.

What we cannot tolerate on this campus are incidents of harassment, discrimination or threats to safety. Such behavior is in stark contrast to W&M’s stated values and mission. I encourage anyone to report such incidents at reportconcern@wm.edu. Counseling services are also available 24/7 by calling 757-221-3620.

Ours is a community grounded in belonging, respect and mutual care. Now is a time to hold close to those values – in Williamsburg and wherever we gather. I saw firsthand this week, at our candlelight vigil, the power that this community has to raise each other up: members of campus, neighbors, friends and strangers. I am deeply proud to be part of a community that comes together as it did last evening at the Wren. It is in community that we are able to experience the power of connection and compassion, drawing from it especially during times of unfathomable pain.

We take care of each other. That is the power of community at William & Mary.

Katherine A. Rowe