I am thankful to the students who have written to me with their thoughtful and expressive emails about a tweet I made early Thursday morning that was careless and hurtful. I am writing to apologize publicly to you for this tweet. I understand that it was inappropriate, and I regret having sent it, as I am a public figure and try to represent the spirit of Vassar in my words and actions. Although it was not my intent, I recognize that the tweet caused pain to students and faculty, and I regret that. I would like to particularly apologize to Chinese and Chinese American students and faculty who may have felt most hurt.
The tweet was wrong because it was insensitive to lives lost to COVID-19 and lacked empathy and respect for the pain and death being experienced by people in China, at this moment and in these last several weeks. I also recognize that my tweet may have re-injured those who have been the subject of xenophobic and racist comments by some. I deleted the tweet as soon as I realized the pain it caused. I also recognize that in my role, I represent the institution that so many call home, and that makes my actions doubly hurtful.
As an explanation of what led to my tweet, but not an excuse, I had just read this article, Study: Coronavirus Lockdown Likely Saved 77,000 Lives Just By Reducing Pollution, which discussed the ecological effects of the lockdown in China. I was rushing (a big mistake with social media) and did not think it through adequately. The tweet was insensitive and an error in judgement.
I regret that I failed to acknowledge the emotional turbulence so many have been going through, and that I did not pause to consider how my words ignored the hellish situation in Wuhan and other cities in China where so many lives are at stake and have been lost. I want nothing more than for this pandemic to be over—for all of us around the globe.
I remain devoted to learning, and this event has already taught me much, and I will continue to learn, be accountable, and seek to do better. I am always willing to listen and learn and respect different perspectives and experiences. In that way, I hope this may be an opening to a meaningful discourse, which can repair the disappointment and lack of trust my action created. As always, I am happy to talk with anyone at any time, over Zoom or by phone.
Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604