November 4, 2020

Dear William Paterson Students,

Yesterday concluded a voting season that began weeks ago with the provision of mail-in ballots and concluded with in-person voting, but it did not resolve the central question of who will be our next president. This should come as no surprise, as experts have for some time been predicting delayed and challenged vote tallies in various states due to record-high turnouts, unusually high mail/absentee ballots due to the pandemic, and the closeness of the race.
With so much hanging in the balance for so many and, indeed, for the future of our entire nation, not knowing who will be president come January 20, 2021 might make us all distracted and anxious. While the outcome is unquestionably of great consequence, I want to take this moment to reaffirm my earlier statement – no matter who wins or what happens between now and the time a winner is declared, we must remain true to our values as a community. The strain of America’s divisions has been building for some time, and this period of limbo may only exacerbate it. 
It is my sincere hope, whoever ends up being declared the winner, that we recommit ourselves, individually and as a community, to work to bridge some of these divisions, be they in our own families, on campus, or beyond. And while the candidates offer a stark contrast in the direction they want to take our country, a win by neither will absolve of us of the hard work that needs to be done everywhere on behalf of social justice and equality.
In her Distinguished Lecturer Series address last month, great playwright, actor, author, and educator Anna Deavere Smith spoke of the need to build bridges and connect with people not like us. “We are a very divided country…and I think the country is in groups, tribes, pacts, like I’ve never seen in my lifetime,” she said. “There’s a reason for the groups, there’s a reason for the fight. It seems unreasonable, but to me it seems that the country is wrestling toward something, out of something and toward something, and things are going to change.” 
If we are indeed wrestling toward something, let us all recommit ourselves to directing this energy and, for many, this anger, toward a better America that is defined by true equality of opportunity and where liberty and justice are extended to all of us. I look forward to continuing that work with you. 
For those looking to engage in dialogue around the election, there are two campus events today and tomorrow that you should consider:
Café con Leche Series: Post-Election Discussion Featuring Daisy Rodriguez
Associate Director-Counseling, Health and Wellness Center—Wednesday, November 4 at 4 p.m.
Post-Election Dialogue featuring: Civil Rights Activist—Mandy Carter – Thursday, November 5 at 2 p.m. 
The election will be resolved sooner or later. In the interim, let’s be sure to extend an extra measure of understanding and empathy to everyone we meet, knowing that this is an especially stressful period for many. 
Richard J. Helldobler, PhD