This message was sent on Nov. 8, 2023, from CalArts President Ravi Rajan and Provost Tracie Costantino to the CalArts community.
Dear CalArts Community,
As leaders and fellow members of CalArts’ community of artists, we are deeply troubled by recent actions that appear to target individuals on our campus related to their identity or perceived stance on the conflict in the Middle East—a conflict that has resulted in horrific violence and tragic loss of life. Our campus has seen several recent acts that are in stark opposition to our policies, codes of conduct, and values as an Institute and community. Let us be clear: We will not tolerate acts or expressions of hate; harassment; vandalism against the property—including the art—of our students, faculty, staff, or the Institute itself; or other actions that violate the safety or right to free expression of any member of our community. In this, we must be unequivocal.
We have heard from people who demand that we curtail or shut down expression of certain views and/or uphold others. Free speech is protected by our laws in the United States and has long been an essential part of our community. CalArts, and those trusted with stewarding the Institute, cannot and will not impede or tolerate the silencing of the expression of diverse perspectives on our campus.
Colleges and universities throughout the country are grappling with the complex task of simultaneously upholding free speech and expression and ensuring a safe community for people of diverse perspectives, identities, and beliefs. Here at CalArts we must add to this the responsibility associated with the role of the artist. Through their work, artists exert an outsized influence on our culture and society. We believe wholeheartedly in the importance of the role of the artist to influence the discourse of our time—and of our future—and we must take seriously the responsibility that accompanies that influence.
Beyond the concerning acts of violence and intimidation by a few individuals, we fear we may be on the cusp of something larger, and particularly dangerous for our community and our educational mission: a slide toward polarization, false binaries, anti-intellectualism, and a stifling of discourse that is anathema to the very idea of what it means to be an artist in society. In this, we hope our fears are wrong.
In speaking with many faculty, and others in the larger CalArts community, we have found that this fear is common, and unprecedented. We have not before witnessed a time when the need to seize our mission (of openness, experimentation, critical engagement, and creative freedom) has been more urgent. The truth of that mission, and the values that accompany it, especially those of intellectual rigor and the specificity demanded by it, are being tested as never before. We call upon each of you, as CalArtians, to aggressively uphold the shared mission to which we have committed, by actively participating in thoughtful and specific inquiry, and to ensure the right of each member of our community to participate in the affirmation of this mission actively, safely, and respectfully.
- CARE Team: If you have concerns about a student who may be struggling, please contact the CARE Team to report your concern or request a consultation.
- Students: Counseling services are available through CalArts Health and Wellness. You can also access crisis counseling 24/7 at 855-364-7981.
- Faculty and Staff: Short-term counseling services are available through the CalArts Employee Assistance Program (EAP) administered by Guardian/Uprise Health. You can call them at 800-386-7055 (program: “worklife”). Counseling services are also available to those with CalArts’ Anthem Blue Cross plan; visit anthem.com or call 833-913-2237.
- Campus Safety: 661-222-2702.