Dear President Bergeron,
I hope your second year at Connecticut College is treating you well and that you are surviving the harsh winter. While we only overlapped a semester at the college, I will always remember your involved and hands on style of leadership as something truly unique about Connecticut College. From the Senior Dinner Series to welcoming my fellow Arabic Studies colleagues and me into your office for an honest discussion, I was moved by your desire to know the students on an individual basis. Thus, I hope you will accept this letter detailing my deep concern over a matter that has recently come to my attention.
I was extremely disappointed to learn this week of some rather hateful comments a certain Professor Pessin of the Philosophy Department wrote on his private Facebook page. The comments purportedly outlined Professor Pessin’s views on Gaza and what precisely ought to be done with the people of Gaza. I am not going to quote the comments, as apparently they have been removed and I don’t want to falsely accuse Professor Pessin or misquote him based off of hearsay.
While I understand everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, even if hateful, I still feel this should be brought to your attention. I am incredibly proud of Connecticut College and I shamelessly brag about it whenever I can. However, I would be deeply disappointed in my alma mater if I knew that an individual entrusted to provide the education I am so thankful for so openly expressed such hateful and bigoted opinions on a public forum such as Facebook, even if it is a private account. We are all representatives of the College, and thus, I worry about the message we would be sending if individuals who acted in such a racist and inappropriate manner were so irresponsibly employed by the school. This certainly isn’t the school I brag about to everyone I meet, nor is it a school I would be proud of.
Let me say, that I have known about Professor Pessin’s extremist opinions for some time, but his reported comments that I only recently learned about go much too far. If true, it shouldn’t matter whom he said such remarks about, but rather that a member of our community expressed hatred and racism about any peoples. While inappropriate to make a direct accusation without hard evidence in front of me, I do feel it my responsibility as an alumnus who cares about my school to bring this matter directly to your attention. I believe that a thorough and immediate investigation into this matter is imperative.
This comes at a time of global debate on freedom of expression and the limits of free speech. Let me be the first to say that I stand with free speech and freedom of expression and I detest those who wish to restrict this. However, there is a line between expressing one’s opinion and thoughts through thoughtful satire or discourse, and bigoted hate speech. If true, the comments I have hopefully enlightened you on fall into the latter category.
I hope you will look into this matter, not just for me, but also for the good of Connecticut College.
Zachary Bertrand Balomenos
Class of 2014
Note from the Editor: Mr. Balomenos has written an update to his original letter, which can be read here.