May 3rd 2024: UVM Commencement speaker cancelled.
Statement by UVM President Suresh Garimella

Dear UVM campus community,

As we enter the final week of what has been a challenging academic year, I am reaching out to you with three messages.

First, I want our students to know that I see and hear you. I see you mourn for lives lost in Israel and Gaza. I hear your calls for peace and a just end to the current unrest in the region. I hear your frustration with foreign policy decisions. I see your efforts to bring attention to your viewpoints and to make your city and your university safe places of which you can be proud. The voices of our community are as diverse and powerful as the issues are complex and heavy. I hear you all. I, too, wish for an end to these seemingly intractable disputes and hope that would bring us all some measure of comfort and restore our sense of security and community.

Second, I want to share my perspective on the demonstration at Andrew Harris Commons. Since it took root, I have been very clear with my colleagues in university leadership that we should take every reasonable step to help student demonstrators understand the safety risks that attend with so-called encampments and offer practical solutions for planning a safe and effective demonstration. I also want to ensure that the demonstrators at the site do not unduly disrupt nor target their classmates or other members of the community.

While I am grateful to the students and university leaders who have engaged in conversation, I note that the demonstration has been continuously in violation of university policies since its inception. Those who continue to violate UVM policies do so intentionally despite having been given the opportunity to express themselves within campus rules. Therefore, regrettably, appropriate student conduct processes have been initiated for those who have persistently violated university policy.

Student demonstrators must also understand that UVM will not tolerate acts or threats of violence nor targeted harassment of others based on their identity or viewpoint. Such actions will be swiftly addressed to the fullest extent of university policy and the law. There is no room at UVM for antisemitism, Islamophobia or any discrimination based on race, national origin or ancestry.

There are unlimited ways to express viewpoints without targeting others. I am proud of our faculty and staff who have modeled these discussions and grateful to our DEI team who have held programs with national experts who have intelligently and sensitively discussed a variety of viewpoints throughout the year.

Third, we are looking forward to the upcoming Commencement ceremonies and the opportunity to celebrate our 2024 UVM graduates. After their years of hard work and commitment to success, they deserve a weekend of ceremony and celebration befitting their accomplishment. It is with regret that I share that our planned speaker, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will not be joining us to deliver the Commencement address.

We’re eager to welcome our Catamount families to campus in a few short weeks to celebrate our newest alumni, and grateful to all of the hardworking staff who help to make the celebration a special one.

As the semester concludes and final exams get underway, I wish success to all of you in the shared work, study and engagement that make universities unique among our nation’s institutions, and peace and fellowship within this cherished community that makes UVM such a special place.

Best wishes,

Suresh Garimella