Stanford President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez condemned the Hamas attack on Israel in a joint statement sent to the Stanford community Wednesday evening.
“As a moral matter, we condemn all terrorism and mass atrocities,” they wrote. “This includes the deliberate attack on civilians this weekend by Hamas.” Palestinian militant group Hamas led a surprise assault on Israel Saturday that killed over 1,000 civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Israel, which has formally declared war, retaliated with airstrikes and ordered a siege of the Gaza strip, which was already blockaded by Israel and Egypt.
With more than 1,200 deaths in Israel and approximately 1,055 in Gaza as of Wednesday, the death toll in the Israeli-Palestine conflict is now at the highest annual fatalities since 2014.
The statement to the campus community aimed to “suppor[t] the members of our Stanford community in this difficult moment.”
Responding to concerns of harassment toward Jewish and Palestinian students, Saller and Martinez wrote, “We want to make clear that Stanford stands unequivocally against hatred on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, national origin and other categories.”
The statement comes after a letter signed by dozens of faculty was sent to University administration on Tuesday, calling on Stanford to “voice its unambiguous condemnation of the horrifying actions taken by Hamas these past few days.” The letter wrote that the University’s “lack of appropriate response” was “deeply troubling.”
Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole and Religious and Spiritual Life Dean Tiffany Steinwert previously sent a statement on Monday, which shared resources available to students in need of support and reiterated Stanford’s policy of nonpartisan positions. It also affirmed that students’ constitutionally-protected speech will be upheld unless it violates campus policy, in response to “banners about the crisis in Israel and Palestine that appeared outside campus buildings over the weekend.”
Saller and Martinez echoed the previous statement on Wednesday. “We have received complaints about banners, signs and chalking on campus that express views that many find offensive,” they wrote. “It is important to remember that controversial and even offensive speech is allowed except when it crosses the line into certain illegal categories such as threats or harassment for which the threshold is quite high.”
The new statement reiterated Stanford’s institutional policy of neutrality, a contentious subject in the last year.
“The decision to take a position about one event or issue … can create a sense of institutional orthodoxy that chills academic freedom,” Saller and Martinez wrote.
They attributed the “limited breadth” of their comments thus far to a “general policy of not issuing statements about news events not directly connected to campus,” adding that the community “should not expect frequent commentary” in the future.
The statement also referenced an incident of “identity-based targeting,” in which a non-faculty instructor “addressed the Middle East conflict in a manner that called out individual students in class based on their backgrounds and identities.” The instructor is no longer teaching as the University investigates the incident.
Saller and Martinez reaffirmed community members’ rights of free expression but encouraged mutual respect: “It is worth remembering that while a climate of free expression requires breathing room, our aspiration, as a community, is for respectful and substantive discourse.”
“We recognize the deeply felt impacts across our community,” Saller and Martinez wrote. “We encourage you to approach one another with a spirit of compassion and respect for our shared humanity.”