Responding respectfully to the election

To the SMU Community: 
We are proud to be hosting a polling place in Moody Coliseum on November 3 to support our SMU family and our surrounding community in exercising our solemn responsibility as members of this republic – voting. Though we enter the voting booth alone, we exit back into a community that comprises Americans from all walks of life.

Therefore, on Election Day, and in the days that follow, we should remember that we also have a responsibility to respect our differences and celebrate our commonality.

Emotions are running high for this election, coming at the end of a difficult year marked by racial unrest as well as the physical and financial upheavals stemming from the ongoing pandemic. People are divided in their support for their preferred candidate and are nervous about a potentially lengthy process to determine the winner. This is a good time to remember that our University has a unique role to play in providing a home for the reasoned exchange of opinions and ideas. Free speech is in our DNA.

However, there is no room for hostility on our campus, either in person or via social media. Free speech at SMU comes with this expectation: All Mustangs are valued, regardless of political affiliation, and we fully expect all Mustangs to value each other. We are all free to support our candidate, argue our points of policy in civil fashion, and publicly declare our support. We will not, however, tolerate taunting, badgering, harassing (verbally or physically) or any act of vandalism by any member of the SMU community. In the days after the election, remember that for some, the flaunting of political caps, T-shirts and buttons may be provocative. It is my hope that every member of our community will exhibit empathy, compassion and respect through our actions during this anxious time. 

We will enforce our expectations to the fullest extent spelled out in SMU’s Student Code of Conduct and all applicable guidelines governing employee behavior. In the event that you experience or witness behavior that is not in keeping with SMU values or poses a physical threat, please call SMU Police or file a report with the Bias Education Response Team. At the end of this letter you will find a listing of support services available across the campus to our students, faculty and staff.

We live in an overly virtual world, thanks to the pandemic, and our tendency to reflexively use social media as a soapbox has only grown. Let us be intentional about managing our words and emotions. One way to do this is by taking a moment to think about our words before we hit “send.” What may seem like a hilarious post at 3 a.m. may look drastically different in the light of day. Remember, too, that one post can live forever. 

We can anticipate that many of you will want to talk through these election-related issues, and the University is examining how best to provide a forum for productive conversations in the weeks to come. Expect to hear more in the coming days.  

If you have not yet voted, I hope that you will exercise that right on November 3 – perhaps here on our campus. The democratic process demands not only participation, but also respect for the political process. We may not share the same candidates, but I believe we all share the same hope for a strong, stable future for our country. 

Mask Up. Pony Up. Vote. 
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President