Announcing Living the Hard Promise: A Dialogue Series


Open expression is a hard promise: it is both a firm commitment and an extraordinarily difficult one. The mission of a great university requires that we question our assumptions and try to look through the eyes of others. Only through such dialogue can we begin to wrestle with the most challenging issues of our times.

In recent weeks, as students, faculty, and staff have confronted and grieved the horrific and tragic events in Israel and Gaza, we have experienced pain, fear, and anger. Yet, even amid the political and emotional turmoil, we believe in the ability of our community to engage across differences. We must not allow personal and moral outrage to overtake our capacity for listening and learning, which even in times of conflict and crisis are critical components of our mission as an educational institution.

At this pivotal moment, Penn Arts & Sciences commits to upholding the hard promise of open expression and respectful dialogue. We reject hate and violence unequivocally, and we embrace the spirit of free exchange without reservation.

To create spaces in which the University community can begin the process of working through these tremendous challenges, Penn Arts & Sciences is launching the Living the Hard Promise initiative.

Beginning with the premise that these are difficult questions without simple solutions, this series calls upon us to become a campus community that engages all our members in empathetic dialogues. It will inform our understanding of today’s most pressing issues—from the concerns of Israelis and Palestinians to the rise of organized hate in the United States to the challenges of upholding free speech while ensuring civility and mutual respect.

The Living the Hard Promise dialogue series will engage the campus community and beyond through the following programs:
• Conversations: Small-group discussions that bring students together to explore concerns and to learn from and about each other.
• Symposiums: These programs will feature faculty and others with expertise in areas that speak to the complexity of current events.
• Reflections: Public programs that bring broader audiences into our campus conversations.

In the coming weeks, we will share more about these events. In the meantime, we want to hear from you about those issues that interest you most. Please visit this link to tell us about topics you would like our community to discuss.

We recognize these conversations won’t solve the world’s problems, but they are a start. We trust that this series will reinvigorate our engagement in the essential work of a university: establishing dialogue, opening us to ideas, learning from each other, and respecting one another’s dignity and humanity. This is what defines a school of arts and sciences. This is the core of the hard promise we make to our community.

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