Columbia University in the City of New York

Love and Light for Orlando - Remarks

On Wednesday, June 15, 2016, the Columbia University community gathered on Low Plaza for a remembrance event and show of solidarity, love and light for OrlandoWatch here and view our album.

For support resources, visit http://universitylife.columbia.edu/news/2016/06/support-after-orlando, and the Student Life section of this website.

Photo: Christian Balmer

Remarks of Executive Vice President for University Life Suzanne Goldberg

Good evening and thank you for being here.  I am Suzanne Goldberg from the Office of University Life and want to welcome you as students, faculty, staff and friends of the Columbia University community.

Last Saturday night, had you asked most of us here if we were thinking about the dancing and fun of Latin night at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, we would have said no.

Yet by Sunday morning, it seemed so close to all of us.

For some in our community, it was literally and unbearably close.  I have heard from students and staff who know Pulse well and have gone dancing there themselves, including just last weekend.

For others, the attack also feels deeply personal, directly threatening and immediately painful – especially for many of our LGBTQ Latinx students, and other Latinx and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Columbia students, faculty and staff.

Many of our Muslim community members, too, feel – directly and personally – the threats and invective that are swarming through social media and presidential politics, even as we stand here together.

For others still, who may never have been to an LGBT club or Pride parade but care deeply about creating a world that can embrace all of us in our complex and robust diversity, there is also pain, anger and outrage.

In a year of so much violence, when so many now feel vulnerable – in houses of worship, in schools, on the street and, now, in places of joy and celebration – it is ever more important that we come together as a University community.

This, after all, is a community drawn together to pursue knowledge and learning at the highest level – and also, for many, a community with a shared interest in achieving understanding across our differences, valuing justice and peace in the world.  

In recognition of this, Low Library will be illuminated tonight in the colors of LGBT Pride, a rainbow that celebrates our differences while also weaving them together.

We have with us tonight four professional counselors from Counseling and Psychological Services and four religious life advisor from the Office of the University Chaplain.  They are here for all of us.  Please find them after our gathering if you would like their support.

Now, I will invite Chris Woods, Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs and LGBTQ+ Outreach in Undergraduate Student Life to say a few words. Then Chris and Ixchel Rosal, Associate Vice President for Student Life in the Office of University Life, will together read the names of those who died inside Pulse early Sunday morning.

Remarks of Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs and LGBTQ+ Outreach (Undergraduate Student Life) Chris Woods

Good evening everyone, and thank you so much for being here.  I am grateful that this space has come together and that you all were able to join us.  I also want to thank those not present with us today in person but who are here with us in spirit. 

This week I have felt so many emotions following what happened at Pulse Orlando.  As a queer Latinx and Puerto Rican man, who has close family in Orlando, who has been to LGBTQ events in Orlando and beyond, and who has felt safe and at home at Latinx nights at clubs,  this act of violence has hit all too close to home.  When I read the names and see the faces of those who were killed, it is scary to see myself, my friends, family, and communities reflected in those names and faces.  It absolutely could have been me or many of us here today.

Although these events impact all of us as people who care about the dignity and lives of others, I want to take a moment to acknowledge and honor the people who lost their lives or were injured.    Many of you may have seen the ways that the media and other news sources, friends, colleagues, and others have not done justice to the identities and experiences of the victims and survivors of this attack, as well as those communities who feel the ripples of this act of violence.  I want to honor and name:

LGBTQ people, specifically queer and trans people of color.  I want to especially uplift the majority Latinx and Black people who were killed and injured that night.

Those who were outed as queer and/or trans to their families, friends, and peers in the reporting of their names in death or those who were injured who now have to live with the impact of these attacks outing them.

Those who have been misgendered in the reporting of their names and stories.

Those survivors who now must navigate the trauma, physical pain, and emotional pain that comes with surviving an assault on one’s life, homes, and communities.

Muslim folks and those who are perceived to be Muslim who may be subject to increased Islamophobia following these events.  It should not fall on Muslim communities alone to be responsible for condemning violence that has been described as linked to “Muslim extremists.”

Queer and trans Muslims, who may feel stuck at the intersections of these communities and not finding a space for themselves.

Cis and straight allies (including friends and family) who were present at Pulse Orlando and were supporting and loving their friends and families that night.

All those who I may not have mentioned here tonight.

Finally, our hearts go out to the families, friends, and community members of the victims who are grieving this loss.

In its own way, to not name at least some of these communities, identities, and experiences is another act of violence that we perpetuate, even after death.  These are stories that may have been forgotten, but we do not forget them here today.

For everyone who is present here and navigating all of the emotions that follow this violence, no matter what your proximity or connection to this event and these people are, we see you, we hear you, and we are with you.  I see, hear, and feel every ounce of pain, sadness, anger, rage, fear, resistance, frustration, love.  All of those feelings are valid and important.

We hope you can find community and support in one another and in whatever way you need in this time.  Please know that we are here for you and care for you. 

Remarks of Associate Vice President for Student Life (Office of University Life) Ixchel Rosal

Good evening. My name is Ixchel Rosal and I recently joined the Columbia family as your Associate Vice President for Student Life.

Tonight, I am meeting most of you for the first time. I had imagined meeting during much different circumstances. Instead, here we are; facing, together, the sorrow of this tragic loss of life. My hope for tonight is that each of us will notice we are not alone in our grief or anger or confusion over the events in Orlando; that we can come together as a university community to support each other both in this moment and as we find our way forward.

As I look at the faces of the victims, I see my own family and network of friends. I know that a place like the Pulse can be place of refuge, of affirmation, of liberation. The pain that instead of offering respite and joy last Saturday night, the Pulse was the site of unimaginable horror, hits close to home for me and I know for many of you. Let’s not leave each other isolated in facing this reality. And, let’s promise to not allow each other to construct false enemies as a balm for our collective pain.

It is also important that we as a university community offer our heart-felt condolences to those families who lost their loved ones.  The heartbreak they now face is unfathomable to me. So to those families, I say we stand with you as well, we notice your heartbreak, and we offer support.

As we look ahead to the coming academic year, we in the Office of University Life want to encourage each of you to stay engaged with these critical community issues beyond tonight, to help cultivate a vibrant community here at Columbia, and to engage with one another and with the initiatives we are creating to help us to do that. Together, we can be resilient in the face of  tragedy, united in the face of adversity, and affirming  in the face of all of our diversity.

Before I close, I want to remind everyone that professional counselors are here tonight for students, as are Religious Life advisors. They are here to support you. Please connect with them should you need to.  Also, the Low Library will be lit in the colors of rainbow, which will have its full effect after sundown. I encourage to stay or return for that, it’s quite beautiful.

In closing, I want to thank you all for joining us tonight. We hope that in some way this has been a healing and reflective space for you.  

Good night.