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A Message to Our Students

Dear HPHY students,

We are living in uniquely challenging times in our country, with few precedents for the viral pandemic combined with historic unemployment and economic hardship. Tragically, the recent murder of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are not unprecedented.

When we last reached out to you, it was before the start of spring term. We were moving to remote teaching, and we told you that we were grateful that you were sticking with us in the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation. We were and are committed to your success and to providing a valuable academic experience this term. We have seen many challenges this term, and we have worked hard to support you as you have worked hard to adapt to these circumstances.

Recent nation-wide protests in response to another murder of an unarmed Black man by police have taken an already untenable situation and elevated our national stress in ways we will all process differently. Our hearts are with our many students who have felt the anger, grief, and frustration of this moment in history.

We’ve been struggling with what message we as a faculty should send to you, our students, at this time to express how much we care about your well-being, and to reinforce our commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and equity, at a time when our broader cultural shortcomings are in such sharp focus. We feel our students of color, in particular our Black students, need to know we have your backs. We stand with you. We are here to support you and we will continue to educate ourselves to become better allies. While we acknowledge that the burden of addressing generations of inequities should not fall on those who have been oppressed, we also want to amplify your voices. In that spirit, for anyone that wants to share – we welcome your suggestions for what we can do to help. They can be sent to

As students at a predominately white institution, we ask each of you to consider what you can do to show your support for classmates that are most affected. Learn what is going on. Consider the many ways you can make a difference and show your support (you can go to if you need ideas).

Our faculty agree that cancelling final exams is one way we can support students’ needs at this time, but we don’t want to diminish the value of your hard efforts to learn. As such, those who want to take a final exam in a HPHY class may do so, as an opportunity to improve a grade or satisfy a personal sense of completion. No final exams will be required of students who would choose to let their grades stand as they are. No student who chooses to take their final exam will have their course grade reduced by their exam score. All final exams are now optional.

We have seen your resiliency this term. We have seen your hard work. You are all part of our HPHY family. We must take care of each other and stand up for one another.

In solidarity, on behalf of the HPHY faculty, staff, and graduate students,

John Halliwill, Department Head