Roger Williams University President Farish issues statement on the Violence in Charlottesville, Va.


RWU Chief Diversity Officer says: “Hate will not win. Hate will not rule.”

BRISTOL, R.I., August 14, 2017 ­­– Roger Williams University President Donald J. Farish posted the following statement on his blog today regarding the violence in Charlottesville, Va.

“Under the guise of exercising their rights under the First Amendment, a collection of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, members of the alt-right, and anti-Semitics gathered in Charlottesville on Friday and, outfitted for violence, paraded through the campus of the University of Virginia, brandishing torches and shouting racist and homophobic slurs as they confronted counter-demonstrators. Regrettably but not surprisingly, violence ensued, resulting in three deaths and almost two dozen injuries serious enough to require hospitalization. One white supremacist drove his car into a group of counter-demonstrators, an act that Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, subsequently labeled ‘terrorism.’

I repudiate in the strongest possible terms the hate speech and violence we all witnessed on Friday in Charlottesville, and I reiterate my personal support for ALL members of the Roger Williams University community, representing a variety of races, ethnicities, national origins, sexual orientations, gender identities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds.

As college and university campuses, including RWU, are preparing to reopen for the coming academic year, campus presidents need to find the right words to communicate to their students, faculty, and staff. How do we balance our inherent commitment to the First Amendment with the reality that there are provocateurs whose goal it is to inflame the passions of members of the campus community and, if at all possible, to incite violence?
I think it is imperative that we separate the exercise of the freedom of speech from the initiation or instigation of violence. Violence is NOT protected by the First Amendment, and neither is incitement to riot.
And it is equally important that university presidents speak to the messaging itself. Whenever challenged, institutions of higher education must go on record to reaffirm the principles that guide us and that form our core values. So let me be clear: Racism, anti-Semitism, and all expressions of intolerance and hate are in direct opposition to RWU’s commitment to equality and inclusion, and have no place on our campus.

Finally, I ask that you join with me in keeping the families and friends of those killed or injured in Charlottesville in our hearts and thoughts.”

Ame O. Lambert, RWU Chief Diversity Officer, issued the following statement:

“As RWU’s inaugural Chief Diversity Officer, I want the students who are preparing to start at or return to Roger Williams University to know that we stand with you as you try to make sense of and find your place in a churning world that seems to be in a fight for its soul. Diversity, equity and inclusion issues are at the heart of this fight. There are no easy answers, but we will courageously wade in together. We will have challenging conversations and listen to each other so that we can learn, grow and shape the world that we want. These are challenging times, but we remain resolute. Hate will not win. Hate will not rule.”