Unrest and calls for change amid global conflict

A message to the Saint Mary's Community

by Brother Thomas Jones, FSC, Interim President | May 8, 2024

Our nation and the world continue to be challenged by war, violence, and unrest. Even as we prepare to celebrate our graduates and turn our attention to their achievements at our upcoming Commencement ceremonies, global conflicts and the current national climate weigh heavily on our minds. College campuses here in the Bay Area and nationwide have been especially impacted, and Saint Mary’s is not immune to these struggles. 

Later this morning, in fact, the SMC Student Power Coalition (SMCSPC) and SMC Students for Justice in Palestine are holding a walk-out at 10:30 a.m. on the Chapel Lawn to call attention to the current conflict in the Middle East and to highlight the coalition’s Calls for Change at SMC. 

Protecting speech and maintaining safety for all

In the SMCSPC document, there is a demand for “protection,” and we want to assure the coalition that Saint Mary’s protects the rights of its students, faculty, and staff to protest peacefully and lawfully. We understand the risk that comes with taking courageous stances, and that the First Amendment gives everyone the right to freedom of speech. We honor and are committed to protecting those rights at SMC in adherence with Saint Mary’s long-standing policy regarding Community Assembly noted in the Student Handbook. 

This policy is in place to protect free speech while maintaining the safety and well-being of our entire campus community, and ensuring daily, essential operations of the College are preserved for safely learning, teaching, living, and working on campus. 

An end to the suffering

Many of our students, faculty, and staff are gripped with grief and fear due to what’s happening nationwide and abroad, including the turbulence and bloodshed in Gaza, Israel, Haiti, Sudan, Ukraine, and other less visible areas. This anguish, coupled with an urgent outcry to stop further death and destruction, has been manifested in the many protests we’ve seen nationally and in our own communities.

The unimaginable loss of life and genocidal acts of violence towards Palestinians in Gaza since the massacre of Israelis on October 7 and the taking of Israeli hostages must not be minimized or overlooked. We stand in solidarity with those like our Holy Father and the citizens of Palestine and Israel who call for the bombing to stop; food, water, and medical treatment to be provided to the Palestinian citizens of Gaza; and the release of the Israeli hostages. 

A call for change from our students

One issue referenced in the Student Power Coalition’s call for action is a pattern of attacks on educational institutions in the Gaza Strip, a pattern United Nations experts have called “scholasticide.

As fellow Lasallian students and teachers, we join others pleading for respect and protection of all those associated with schools. Having visited Bethlehem University—a Lasallian institution of higher education in the Holy Land—and spent time with its students and families, I am keenly aware of the impact of the war on the dignity and well-being of the members of that community.  I ask you to pray with me for their safety and welfare.  

Saint Mary’s is a college that supports the dignity of every human person. We share a collective responsibility to build up and strengthen the society in which we live with love, compassion, and understanding. As a community, we support each other and hold each other responsible for respecting and caring for one another.

Honest and informed viewpoints of a political movement, government, or ideology do not equate to bias, discrimination, or hatred of the followers or citizens of that movement, government, or ideology. As a community committed to inclusion and the promotion of human dignity, I pray that we can challenge our political leaders to promote peace and end the current global geopolitical crises that continue to destroy and devalue human life.   

The Student Power Coalition’s call for action outlines several structural changes that its authors feel need to be made for Saint Mary’s to fully live up to its values, and we will take each of those items under consideration in the coming days.

For our students who may be seeking additional support and resources, I encourage you to contact the Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) team and the Mission & Ministry Center. For our employees who may be seeking additional resources and support as well, please utilize the Employee Assistance Program.

I appreciate the commitment shown by our students and others at SMC to advocate for changes that will make Saint Mary’s the best version of itself, an institution that is proudly grounded in its Lasallian Catholic values, and to share in the responsibility to implement these changes.   

As we approach Commencement, let us renew our resolve to care for and support each other in ways that build and sustain our community.


Brother Thomas Jones, FSC

Interim President