Faculty and Staff - October 29, 2020

Dear Campus Community, 

The 2020 Election is nearing its end, and I wanted to mention a few matters that are top of mind for me personally in regard to voting and politics. When I arrived on campus, I recognized that this was a civically engaged community, but I had no idea how seriously this campus takes voting! I have been proud to not only witness the many activities encouraging students to vote but also participate in the efforts. It is abundantly clear why Winthrop has been recognized, for the third year in a row, by Washington Monthly for its success in getting students to exercise this constitutionally protected right.

As we look ahead to next week, there remains uncertainty on whether we will even know by Nov. 4 the outcomes of the various races, and that, in itself, can be unsettling. Pair that with the strong feelings of people all across the political spectrum, and there is sure to be much emotion leading up to and immediately following Election Day. So, what can we do as a campus to support our students, some of whom have voted for the first time in a national election?

First, we can have thoughtful, respectful conversations about the election season and its aftermath. Gaining an understanding of our democratic process is part of a Winthrop education, and I encourage discussion. In front of Byrnes Auditorium is a reminder of the safe place that dialogue and even disagreement have on a university campus. The “Constant Conversation” inscription there at the sidewalk intersection touches on the important role spirited discussion plays in a university community. While I will not mention all that A. Bartlett Giamatti said in the 1988 MIT commencement address from which the inscription is derived, I would encourage you to listen to Giamatti’s words sometime, especially the last five or so minutes of the commencement video. His words remain markedly relevant today. 

Secondly, we can encourage each other to think through now what our reactions will be next week, based on the possible election outcomes, as well as remember what is appropriate behavior as reflected in our institutional values and the Dedication for Excellence. We also can further “unpack” the election in classes where that conversation supports instruction.  

Thirdly, we can be well educated on speech rights. Our Free Speech vs. Hate Speech virtual event earlier this week was outstanding, and if you weren’t able to make it, I hope you will tune in to the recording at your convenience. I thank our moderator and panelists for the excellent presentation.

Finally, whether your candidates prevail or not, you may need extra support. The Office of Diversity & Student Engagement will offer post-election small group discussions as needed, and Counseling Services will be available, as always, to help students sort out their feelings. Similarly, employees may use the Employee Assistance Program.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Thank you all for your efforts as we strive to be a model of a civically engaged community during difficult times.   



George W. Hynd
Interim President