Dear Members of the Brown Community,

As students leave campus and the semester winds down, I would like to wish all of you a peaceful holiday with your families and friends. But, given the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, it may be too much to expect a joyous holiday. The overwhelming sorrow of the families who lost a child, friend or family member on Friday cannot be put aside. And, the events in Newtown bring to mind similar tragedies in schools, college campuses, and other places where we live and work. Over the weekend, my own emotions have ranged from sadness at the loss of young lives, to gratitude to the teachers and first responders whose actions prevented an even worse outcome, to anger that these tragedies continue to occur. Our deepest condolences go out to the community of Newtown, which has suffered so profoundly.

President Obama's remarks at the memorial service held in Newtown last night highlighted the idea that it is time for a national conversation about the lethal mixture of access to guns and the inadequate detection and treatment of mental illness. I hope that, after a period of reflection, we can have a campus conversation that mirrors this national debate. I intend to reach out to members of our community to help me plan a series of forums this spring in which we can discuss the forces that underlie events such as the school shooting in Newtown, and the policies that may reduce the risk of their occurrence.

The Newtown tragedy may have left some of you with concerns about the safety of our own campus. Brown has well-developed plans for dealing with a wide range of crises. The events on Friday underscore how important it is to make sure campus personnel are educated about these plans. In particular, I encourage members of the community to familiarize themselves with the University's Emergency Action Plan, the guidance for a hostile intruder situation, and the resources available for helping students and others in distress.

Again, I wish you a peaceful holiday with your families and friends.


Chris Paxson