Connecting within our Community: AUP Voices

November 19, 2015

I have three stories to share about AUP students today which I trust you will find as moving as I did. The truth is that what we are currently living through brings out the best and the worst in people—for some it spurs creativity, compassion, and a desire to connect; for others it triggers fear, suspicion and impatience or anger. Most of us feel along that whole emotional range at once. And all of us long for a feeling of closure and consolation; we need a space in which we can grieve.

To illustrate some of this, I would like to share with you a video made by AUP freshman Jasmine Paul’s French teacher, Mary Blain and the French Club at the Utica Academy for International Studies in Sterling Heights, Michigan. As Jasmine put it in a letter to me last night, these students have followed every step of her journey to AUP, and she received overwhelming love and support from them this weekend. During their French Club meeting Monday night, they wanted to reach out to our community and to show solidarity with France. When I wrote for permission to share the video, Mary Blain, Jasmine’s teacher, answered me this way: “We love our dear Paris, and are hurting and healing with you!”

Another student at AUP, who would like to remain anonymous, wrote a poem to commemorate those who lost their lives in the attacks. Listening to some of the discussions in class that got a bit too political for her, she reminded herself that she wanted to focus on the faces and names of those who were lost, and to write a poem of remembrance and great compassion. Click here to read this powerful poem with the student’s little cameos of each person lost in last Friday’s attacks.

Finally, I had a visit today from two of our Muslim students—the first, a beautiful young woman from Libya who is a student leader, hard at work with the SGA planning the vigil that will take place later in the week, the second a freshman student and Syrian refugee whose family is still living in a camp in Jordan. He’s new on campus this semester and she has taken him under her wing. The first student had already, since Friday’s events, heard threats and negative comments about her veil in the streets of Paris;  the second had worried he would not be able to come back into France from Rome (where he had been participating in sports intramurals with AUP’s soccer team) on his Syrian passport. They brought me chocolates from Rome and a tiny, intricate, beautiful model of the Vatican.  We shared a chocolate and talked about how hard these times are for peaceful, integrated French Muslims and for visiting Muslims to the country.

Recent alum Pierre Bach '13 joins AUP's moment of silence on Monday 

Three moving reactions to the terror of Friday night, each speaking in a different voice within our diverse, pluralistic, open community, one that includes under its wings and in its classrooms all religions, ethnicities, cultures, nationalities, and languages, not to mention, relations to power. Our AUP community-- students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff-- continues to share its thoughts and feelings every day as they try to understand and make sense of these events.


Celeste M. Schenck