Message from Senate Leadership - National Election 2020


Dear University of Oregon Community, 

We are writing in our roles as faculty members serving as the University Senate President and Vice President. We are writing as individuals and not speaking on behalf of the Senate. But we have spoken with many members of the Senate and believe that the spirit of this message reflects a general feeling among faculty and staff leaders on campus. 

The Senate governs academic matters on behalf of the faculty. Strictly speaking, the upcoming elections are not an academic matter, but the elections and the social and political events surrounding them are hugely consequential and the outcome will have a great effect on the lives of the students, faculty, and staff in our community. These are also particularly divisive elections, especially at the national level, and for many, there seems to be no middle ground between victory and disaster. This has led to substantial anxiety for many of us and a feeling that we are not safe. In this context, we acknowledge that there are members of our community who have never felt particularly safe in our current society, and for whom there is no outcome to the elections that will make them feel safe. Nonetheless, the outcome of these elections will affect us all. 

We write with messages to both our students and our faculty and staff colleagues. 

To our students: vote if you can. We recognize that many of you are deeply affected by these elections. They have placed one more heavy weight on your shoulders, at a time when you are already working hard to manage classes, work, close relationships, health, safety, and what it means to have a college experience in 2020, among many other challenges. Regardless of the outcome, Black lives matter. Regardless of the outcome, we will continue our work toward dismantling racism and bias in our university, and in creating a safe and inclusive environment in our classrooms and research. We are committed to teaching all of you and engaging all of you in academic life. If you need some extra support, please reach out to your instructors or the University Counseling Center for resources.

To our colleagues: vote if you can. We recognize you in the same way we recognize students. And, in addition, we ask that you empathize with the ways these elections affect our students, particularly Black, Indigenous, and Latinx students, students of color, LGBTQIA+ students, students with disabilities, and international students. We encourage you to consider the obligation of our position to lead in this moment and model for our students and each other the best habits of academia: thoughtful intellectual engagement, compassionate mentorship, and critical reflection on information. Many of us have the additional privilege to be able to turn our attention away from the election. We also encourage you to empathize with students and others in our community who do not share that privilege because, by virtue of their identity or skin color or national origin, are unable to safely disengage. Consider ways to accommodate students in your class around the election, for example by avoiding scheduling exams and other major assignments near the election. Have a plan to facilitate thoughtful, constructive discussions that help students process their emotions and concerns. This does not come easily for all of us, so we encourage you to use resources created by TEP and others to create space for the feelings that any outcome of this election is likely to generate. 

The mission of our university is to teach our students, generate and disseminate new knowledge, and serve our communities. We should all remember that this mission unites everyone on campus regardless of this election or any other event that would pull us apart.  


Elliot Berkman 

Professor of Psychology 

Senate President 


Spike Gildea 

Professor of Linguistics 

Senate Vice-President