January 7, 2021

To all members of the Northeastern community,

Over the past several years we have experienced a steady disintegration of our public discourse and the fraying of civility—both in the United States and around the world. Yesterday we witnessed the culmination of this disturbing trend as violence spilled into the US Capitol, exposing the depths of our societal fractures. Anger and division sparked a senseless attack on our core values. The bonds that unite us in freedom and liberty were threatened needlessly and recklessly.

We must join together in condemning this unacceptable assault on our democracy. This condemnation includes those who incited and enabled yesterday’s inexcusable actions. A society governed by the rule of law must never resort to violence as a means to resolve disagreement. And we must immediately begin the work to heal the divisions that brought us to this dangerous turn of events.

As members of an academic community—individuals committed to freedom of thought and champions of knowledge and truth—let us seize this opportunity to heal the divisions straining our civil discourse. We are called to seek understanding and common ground, and to embrace fair and thoughtful intellectual exchange. We should demand rigor and candor of one another, but also respect and admiration. We can challenge one another’s assumptions and conclusions, but always with the goal of improving our ideas and the actions we take in support of them. We each have a responsibility to model the values of equity and compassion in all that we do.

Northeastern is a community dedicated to learning and discovery—enhanced by real-world experiences. We have proven repeatedly what can be achieved through the potent combination of common cause and a resilient spirit. The gravest challenges can lead to transformative successes. Because of this, and despite yesterday’s disturbing events, I know that a brighter future is in store.


Joseph E. Aoun