On the escalating violence in Israel and Gaza

Dear Members of the USF Community,

The escalating violence in Israel and Gaza is costing human lives, causing severe injuries, and destroying property and livelihoods. Violence begets violence, while nonviolence is the path to social justice and lasting peace. USF is dedicated to teaching and practicing universal respect for the dignity of every person. We stand in solidarity with all of the peace workers currently advocating for a ceasefire, and we support every effort to reach a just and lasting peace, built upon human rights, with shared prosperity as its goal. 

Here at USF, some members of our community — as well as alumni, friends, and USF families — have read posts on an academic program’s Instagram account that are disturbing, violent, and perceived as anti-Semitic. These posts do not represent USF’s position, views, or values; on the contrary, they stand in stark contrast to our commitment to nonviolence, social justice, and the peaceful co-existence of all peoples and communities. We are investigating the incident and will hold those responsible to our community standards. We apologize for the hurt and distress they may have caused. Please be assured that we will use this incident as an opportunity to ensure and enhance sound practices for sharing only content aligned with our values. The account that posted contrary content has been taken down. 

It is also critically important to note that all USF students, faculty, and staff are free to express their opinions and perspectives on personal social media accounts. However, social accounts published on official university platforms are subject to USF community standards and alignment with the university’s values.

For members of our own community who are feeling unsafe after reading the aforementioned posts, please know that there are many individuals and resources you can turn to for assistance and support. The following resources may also be helpful if you are having a difficult time seeing and hearing about the violent confrontations in Israel and Gaza.

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is available to students if you would like to discuss how you are feeling with a professional therapist. Please call (415) 422-6352 during normal business hours to make an appointment.
  • Students can also contact ProtoCall, our after-hours support and consultation line. You can speak live to an on-call counselor by calling (415) 422-6352 and pressing option #2. Counselors are available from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. (PT) Monday through Friday and 24 hours a day on weekends.
  • Staff in the Dean of Students office are available to meet with any student to support individual needs. During weekends and after hours, students can call (415) 422-4201 to be connected with an on-call staff member. During regular business hours students can call (415) 422-5330 or email deanofstudents@usfca.edu.
  • University Ministry support services are available to all community members and can be reached at (415) 422-4463 or um@usfca.edu.
  • Faculty and staff members can contact CONCERN, the university’s employee assistance program, at (800) 344-4222.

Finally, on a personal note, I traveled to Israel several years ago on a Jewish Community Relations Council delegation of Bay Area civic leaders, and our group met with scholars, judges, educators, and diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah. Professors at the Shalom Hartman Institute led us through several exercises, helping us to understand what a two-state solution would look like, with true peace, economic prosperity, and respect for human rights.

The way toward such a hopeful future is through nonviolence and dialogue.

With prayers for peace,
Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.