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President’s message on inauguration information, resources

Further details provided on Education for Citizenship Discussion Series

President Kristina M. Johnson sent the following email to The Ohio State University community today (Jan. 15).

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

Our nation will inaugurate the 46th president of the United States on Wednesday against the unprecedented backdrop of a global pandemic and threats of violence.

I am writing to you today with two important messages. The first and most imperative is that you stay safe. Second, know that there are resources available to support and help you in these challenging days.

Stay safe. With COVID-19 still a significant factor, this means wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance, washing your hands and getting regularly tested when asked or required to do so. 

Given the current political climate, staying safe also means staying away from situations that have the potential for violence. We have all seen the striking images of armed National Guard troops at the U.S. Capitol and around Washington, D.C. The National Guard also will be at the Ohio Statehouse to be prepared for potential armed protests signaled by certain militant groups.

Governor Mike DeWine has closed the Statehouse and all downtown state offices beginning this Sunday through Wednesday, and I am echoing the call made by the governor and Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther that everyone avoid the area during that time. Let me be clear: This is not a suggestion that you refrain from exercising your right of free expression. There are many safe and appropriate opportunities to make your voice heard. Don’t put yourself in danger in exercising that right. Stay safe.

Ohio State’s Department of Public Safety is monitoring the situation in collaboration with elected officials and public safety leaders. We will provide updates as needed.

In addition, I want you to know that support and resources are available. 

Republican, Democrat, independent, conservative, progressive and everything in between, we all are struggling in our own ways to make sense of what is happening in this great country we love.

Our “Education for Citizenship Discussion Series,” organized by deans, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and other university leaders, kicked off last night, and I was pleased to join hundreds in a virtual discussion about fostering deliberative democracy in this era of political polarization.

The Divided Community Project has planned the next event, “Becoming Weavers in a Divided Nation,” which is scheduled for 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 21. Speakers include:

  • David Brooks, New York Times op-ed columnist
  • Sarah Cole, Moritz Chair in Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Norman Jones, dean and director, Ohio State Mansfield
  • Jacquelyn Meshelemiah, associate vice provost for diversity and inclusion
  • Teri Murphy, co-director of Conflict to Peace Lab, Mershon Center for International Security Studies
  • Gene Smith, senior vice president and Wolfe Foundation Endowed Athletics Director
  • Lena Tenney, diversity, equity and inclusion officer, College of Pharmacy

Subsequent discussions are planned for January 28 and February 4. We will hold additional conversations in the coming weeks. Details are available on the Education for Citizenship Initiative website along with resources for respectful and productive dialogue.

Fostering civil discourse – even, and perhaps especially – among those who strongly disagree, is a hallmark of what we do as an institution of higher learning. 

And many of us continue to be challenged by feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression because of this pandemic. Some have lost loved ones. Others are sick or still recovering. You don’t need to struggle alone or in silence. Please explore the resources listed at the end of this email and share them with members of our community who would benefit.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose life and legacy we will celebrate on Monday, said: “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” This is indeed a dark time for our nation, but it is also a time for us to look for those bright points in the form of opportunities to come together in peace. Please listen to one another, especially when you disagree. Stand up for what you believe, but do not engage in violence. Check in on each other and offer support to those who need it. Be kind and be safe, Buckeyes.

Sincerely yours,

Kristina M. Johnson, PhD


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