March 30, 2020: COVID-19 Open Letter

Dear Students,

It has been two weeks since we have seen most of you on campus and a lot has happened since then. The campus is not the same without you, and we are not the same without you. There are few moments that define our lives and the impact of COVID-19 the past few weeks has created a collection of moments that may redefine the life we know. While we come from different places, generations, and identities and while we are all a part of the same Washington University community, we experience life differently. So, we’d like to share some thoughts from our perspective as staff at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) on the impact of COVID-19 on members of our community that demand reflection and action in this moment.

Many of us are experiencing being displaced from the home we have created on campus through both the physical spaces we occupy and the social spaces that contribute to our sensibilities of safety and belonging.  These positive relationships among students, faculty and staff on our campus have been disrupted, and for many of us that weighs heavily upon our mental health. The physical distancing and social isolation we are all experiencing has created a sense of loneliness for many, but please know that you are not alone – we acknowledge your feelings and we see you.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion stands against the racism and xenophobia fueling physical and verbal attacks on our nation’s Asian and Asian American communities which have created fear for safety among many, specifically within our Chinese community. Let us state clearly, these acts of hate must be called out as destructive to our values and our society. We also acknowledge that these acts of hate against our Asian and Asian American communities are a resurgence of othering that has existed for generations.  Our Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S. have experienced state-sanctioned xenophobic exclusion, internment, and stealing of lands.  Most recently, systemic and institutionalized white supremacy has taken aim to weaken the collective power of communities of color by strategically decoupling the minoritized experiences and identities of Asian Pacific Islander and South Asian Americans.

The impact of xenophobic rhetoric further oppresses and is palpable in our immigrant, undocumented, LGBTQIA+, vulnerable and minoritized communities. We understand that going home for our LGBTQIA+ community may challenge your ability to be out, maintain a community of support and further contribute to this already challenging situation. We also recognize that our undocumented students may fear deportation and vulnerable communities will be challenged with access to healthcare, technology, information and basic needs.  We know this is your truth and validate your experiences by advocating and continuing to work as a campus community to address these concerns.

As this moment continues to impact all of us, we challenge all members of our WashU community, wherever you may be, to call out the bias, call out the hate, reach out to each other, continue to develop your relationships – see each other.  Let your reflection on this moment be about the actions you took in your communities, for your friends and family, and for your university to build what was started here in St. Louis and truly be a community that is stronger when we all return, because we are #WashUTogether.

Our hope is that each of you are seeking the support you need by connecting with your local networks of support or accessing the resources offered through the Habif Health and Wellness Center at 314-935-6695 (business hours) or 314-935-6666 (after-hours). Please know that the staff at the Center for Diversity and Inclusion is here for you and if you need to talk to us, share ideas, or just reconnect, don’t hesitate to call us at 314-935-7535 or email us at


Mark Kamimura-Jiménez, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
Dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Christi Smith, Ph.D.
Assistant Dean
Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Stephanie Weiskopf
Associate Director
Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Heather Browning
Training and Education Specialist
Center for Diversity and Inclusion

Michelle Wagner
Administrative Assistant
Center for Diversity and Inclusion