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Our Humanity

November 4, 2023

To the YSM Community:

We had planned this Beyond Sterling Hall as an update on several initiatives aimed to promote well-being among the members of our Yale School of Medicine. We will do so soon, but instead I feel compelled to pause and to consider how we support each other as a community in the wake of heinous acts by the terrorist group Hamas, even as we acknowledge that members of our community hold widely disparate views on the response to those acts. We share a common grief over the loss of innocent lives.

Over the last few weeks, I have been buoyed by the civility of dialogue with our students. In one-on-one and group conversations, our students have expressed compassion for us and for each other, while articulating personal distress about events in the Middle East and often expressing opposing perspectives.

There have also been many common threads in conversations with all members of our community—students, staff, and faculty. Many are worried about the safety of family members in the Middle East. Others have shared fears that they will be marginalized or worse, targeted, if they express their opinions. Still others express fear for their own safety as anti-Semitic attacks and Islamophobia mount.

As a school engaged in “promoting curiosity and critical inquiry in an inclusive environment enriched by diversity,” we value discourse and freedom of expression. The university commitment to freedom of expression is codified in the Woodward Report. Individuals must feel safe to share their positions. At the same time, freedom of expression must never cross the line of “speech that meets the definition of harassment or discrimination, including threats of violence, or, under certain circumstances, threats that constitute intimidation or coercion.”

Let us commit to learning from each other and to expressing kindness and grace while recognizing the magnitude and impact of events in the Middle East. And let us continue to learn from our students.


Nancy J. Brown, MD
Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Medicine
C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine