Message to the Community: The Importance of Open Dialogue

News Story: August 18, 2017

Dear members of the Sacred Heart University community,

As summer comes to an end and we prepare for another fall semester, I am excited to welcome our incoming and returning students, their families and our dedicated faculty and staff. Together we are opening doors for future learning, exciting careers, personal growth and service. There will also be a lot of fun mixed with the hard work, beginning with the President’s Gala in a few weeks. I look forward to seeing you all there.

To our students, I am confident that your time with us will be interesting, dynamic and incredibly rewarding. But today, I also am concerned about the state of the world and the many challenges our country is facing. As we contemplate current events and recent tragedies, it is impossible not to wonder what the coming months will bring and what you will find waiting for you when you graduate.

More and more, the news is filled with stories showcasing the divisive nature of our public discourse and the inexcusable rise of hate, intolerance and despicable behaviors that threaten this country. Here at our University, we are committed to ensuring open dialogue and to providing a learning space for respectfully discussing and exploring differences. Ours is an environment where differing opinions are embraced.

Respect for all people, regardless of their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, economic circumstances, cultural background, politics or personal beliefs exemplifies the Sacred Heart spirit and philosophy. And beyond simply acknowledging differences, we choose to explore them through discussion, debate and honest reflection. We are respectful in dissent. We affirm the dignity of all individuals and opinions. We do not raise our voices to drown out others, nor do we ever consider violence, ridicule or debasing comments as a rationale for expression or change. We are all equal with one another. At Sacred Heart, there is ZERO tolerance for hatred or bullying.

Respecting differences is a critical element of everything that happens here in our university setting. The dignity and value of every human being is paramount, and the hope is that our students will go into the world enriched with the tools and resolve to help make it a better place for everyone they encounter. It is not our role to shelter students from prejudice, fanaticism, xenophobia, chauvinism and the many other forms of bias and bigotry that exist around us. Instead, we must arm them with perspective, critical thinking skills, a strong voice, an open mind and the courage to demonstrate those convictions.

Our students are tomorrow’s leaders. The faculty, staff and administration here are dedicated to students’ growth, to helping them understand the world, their service to the world around them and the richness of the Catholic intellectual traditions. Our goal is to instill appreciation for all they will inherit, to serve as a catalyst for change and to imbue in our students a passion for making the world a better, kinder and more respectful place.

We have an exciting year ahead of us, and I look forward to all that the new academic year will surely bring. Let us take this journey together respectfully as sisters and brothers of a learning community.

Dr. John Petillo
President, Sacred Heart University