To all members of the Northeastern family:

The heartbreak is real. Not a week goes by without another tragic act of violence in the United States. In just the last 12 days—from upstate New York to Southern California to Western Texas—dozens of innocent victims have been slain in a hail of bullets. Our emotions range from shock and grief to anger and despair. Many of you have told me that you feel completely helpless.

As we process these unspeakable tragedies, our community is asking: What can we do? How can we help? Even in the midst of our despair, Northeastern remains undaunted in our commitment to tackling the world’s most intractable problems—including senseless acts of gun violence, systemic racism, anti-Semitism, and the immense burdens of mental illness. We will persist in taking on these challenges through our teaching, research, and actions—fully aware that this work is both challenging and perhaps never-ending.

Thousands of our faculty, staff, alumni, and students have dedicated themselves to addressing these social ills. Northeastern maintains the nation’s definitive database on mass killings—a powerful tool for understanding the scope of this epidemic. Our centers and institutes produce ideas and tangible solutions in the domains of restorative justice, civil rights, public health, violent crime—and many others. Earlier today, you received a notice about a June 6 Civility Series event, which will allow us to shed light on these issues.

I realize that this important work—no matter how groundbreaking—cannot restore the lives of those lost or heal the wounds of the survivors. Nor does it address the anguish that so many of us feel when we see the horrifying images of yet another community torn apart by a mass killing.

It is a cliché to say that the solution to hatred and violence is education and enlightenment. But cliché or not, I believe this statement is undoubtedly true. As we grapple with these tragedies, let us reaffirm our mission to teach, learn, and provide solutions—ideas and actions that unify people and communities. Let us also find strength and support in one another—even in these darkest of hours.

Dr. King said, “If you can’t fly then run; if you can’t run then walk; if you can’t walk then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Let us move forward together. Let us cast the light of knowledge on the darkest corners of society, so that we can uplift humankind and build a world of harmony and understanding.


Joseph E. Aoun