President calls for more engagement

November 6, 2009

Dear Members of the UNH Community,

I’m sure I was not alone in my feelings of sadness and, yes, anger, upon hearing Sunday morning that another one of our students had been assaulted on campus. This young man was repeatedly kicked and punched by assailants in a well-traveled area near Stoke Hall on Halloween night.

The University Police Department, in concert with other law enforcement agencies, is working to find and bring to justice the perpetrators of this violent assault. The UNH Police are also redoubling their efforts to patrol the campus and keep us safe. That said, it concerns me greatly that civil interactions in our community have slipped to this degree. This is the third assault on campus this semester. I hope you will join me in working for an end to this kind of behavior and a return to norms of respect and civility in our campus community.

Yes, our community. We are a community. That means we are supposed to look out for and take care of one another. That didn’t happen Saturday night. Indeed, aside from the terrible injuries our student suffered, what disturbed me most was the fact that many people observed the assault and did nothing. Absolutely nothing. That is not how a healthy community behaves. While I certainly don’t want anyone to put themselves in harm’s way to break up a fight, choosing to walk past, to stop and observe, or just to ignore an altercation is unacceptable. It takes only a moment to call the police. Such a call can even be made anonymously. Remember: This 21-year-old student is not simply a statistic or a name on a police report. He is someone’s son, roommate and friend. What if he were yours? What if you were he?

Building and maintaining a community is not a spectator sport. It requires the active engagement of all members. UNH has been at the forefront nationally around efforts to help our students be more empowered and involved in ending domestic and sexual violence and stalking on campus. In its second year, our Bringing in the Bystander program aims to establish a community of responsibility and emphasizes that everyone has a role to play. We need to expand that to a shared responsibility for all our students.

Every class of students that enters the University of New Hampshire agrees to follow a set of standards in­tended to advance our educational mission, as well as to promote each student’s academic achievement and personal development. We agree, in short, to act as members of a community. If you were one of the many people who witnessed, participated in, or otherwise have any information about this assault, you can still do the right thing. Call the University Police Department at (603) 862-1427 and share what you know. You owe it to yourself and to your fellow Wildcats.

Best regards,

Mark W. Huddleston
University of New Hampshire