November 4, 2020
Dear University of Oregon community,
This has been an incredibly challenging election cycle, and today we are waking up to an uncertain result as it relates to the presidency. For many, this uncertainty will be very difficult. This election season polarized us in a way that is almost unprecedented in modern times. For what it is worth, I have faith in both the virtue and resilience of our democratic system. On the whole, it has served our country well, albeit imperfectly, for nearly 250 years. I urge each of you to be patient as the election officials do their work counting the votes. And, if for some reason the election ends up in the courts, I respectfully call on our judges to follow the US Constitution and the rule of law, not partisan politics.
As if we needed any proof, this tumultuous election has shown once again that we are a deeply divided nation. Regardless of which candidate you supported, you may want to participate in protests or marches either to demonstrate your support or antipathy for one of the two candidates or to express your frustration with the election. Lawful protest and acts of dissent are part of the culture of our university. So, feel free to mark up a sign and stand up for your beliefs. At the same time, please be careful about how you express your feelings. Acts of violence and destruction rarely hurt those who are the targets of one’s frustration. Instead, they more often damage and endanger our friends, neighbors, and the community we live in and care about and ultimately hurt one’s cause.
While some national leaders have embraced the politics of division, we do not have to. It is more important than ever for institutions of higher education to set a different example and chart a course toward a brighter future. At the UO, let’s start today, regardless of the outcome of this election. I ask you all to respect that not everyone in our community voted the same way, and that is as it should be. Take a few minutes to watch the UO’s The Lost Art of Argument, which aired on OPB earlier this week. It showcases our faculty discussing the value of civil discourse. Even with the uncertainty, let’s double down on that ethos as we look toward the future. And let’s not forget that this has been a stressful period for everyone, for so many reasons, so please go out of your way to show grace and empathy to those around you.
Finally, I know that moments like these are times when we want to be together, to celebrate or lament with friends, family, and those who share similar political viewpoints. Please do not lose sight of the fact that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and must remain vigilant. Please wear your face covering, wash your hands regularly, and maintain appropriate physical distancing. Do not let this election jeopardize your health and safety or that of the broader community.
Thank you. Stay healthy and stay safe.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law