The School of Arts and Sciences launched a dialogue series to engage the campus community in respectful conversation amid campus tensions over the ongoing war in Israel and Gaza.
The SAS Dean’s Office announced the initiative, called “Living the Hard Promise: A Dialogue Series,” in an email on Nov. 2, reaffirming the school's commitment to the "hard promise" of open expression. The new initiative aims to encourage empathetic dialogue on campus and build a fuller understanding of “today’s most pressing issues,” which include the turmoil caused by the Israel-Hamas war.
The series will hold small group discussions, faculty symposiums, and reflections to explore complex current events. These programs intend to engage students, faculty, and the wider public across differences on difficult questions. The deans called for mutual respect and stated their support for the “spirit of free exchange without reservation.”
“We must not allow personal and moral outrage to overtake our capacity for listening and learning, which even in times of conflict and crisis are critical components of our mission as an educational institution,” the SAS Dean’s Office wrote.
SAS Dean Steven Fluharty, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Paul Sniegowski, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Beth Wenger, and Vice Dean for Professional and Liberal Education Nora Lewis signed the email.
Shortly after the announcement of the dialogue series, Sniegowski sent an email on Nov. 2 to College students highlighting the initiative. Recognizing that fear and pain over the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict can challenge the capacity for civil dialogue, he asked students to treat themselves and other community members with consideration.
“Such dialogue will never be easy, but it can begin by resisting the urge to accept simple answers to deeply complicated questions and, instead, seeking a fuller understanding of the issues and their context,” Sniegowski wrote in the email.
Sniegowski did not have any further comment when The Daily Pennsylvanian reached out following his email.
The announcement of “Living the Hard Promise” comes a day after President Liz Magill announced Penn’s Action Plan to Combat Antisemitism. The plan, which outlines steps to increase security, engagement, and education on campus, has drawn mixed reactions from the Penn community.
“These conversations won’t solve the world’s problems, but they are a start,” the SAS Dean’s Office wrote in the email. “We trust that this series will reinvigorate our engagement in the essential work of a university: establishing dialogue, opening us to ideas, learning from each other, and respecting one another’s dignity and humanity.”