Office of the President
November 26, 2023

Student victim of serious crime; being together as a community

From the President

Dear Brown Community,

We received the devastating news from the family this morning that one of our students was shot last night while in Vermont with friends for the Thanksgiving break. The family has given us permission to share that Hisham Awartani, a junior at Brown, remains hospitalized, and we were very relieved and grateful to learn that he is expected to survive his injuries.

Hisham’s family also gave us permission to share the circumstances that Hisham is Palestinian Irish American, and that he and his two friends may have been targeted because of their Arab ancestry and identity. His two friends also were shot, and police continue to investigate. I have been in touch with Hisham’s family, and members of Brown’s support staff have remained in close contact and are offering all the care that we can, including University personnel onsite in Burlington, Vermont.

There are not enough words to express the deep anguish I feel for Hisham, his parents and family members, and his friends. I know that this heinous and despicable act of violence — this latest evidence of anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian discrimination and hate spiraling across this country and around the world — will leave many in our community deeply shaken. We know it will heighten concerns about personal safety and security for Palestinian and Arab members of our community.

I call on our community to come together to condemn anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian discrimination and acts of violence and hate, and express care and empathy for one another. I have asked the University Chaplain’s Office to organize a campus vigil Monday to bring our community together during this difficult time. Please join us on the Main Green for a Vigil for Peace and Healing at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow.

The families of Hisham and the other two student victims of the shooting have asked that no one make donations to fundraisers unless specifically organized by the families. We also agreed to share the families’ desire for privacy and space to provide their children with the support they need.

I know that I and many members of our community are feeling so many emotions in this moment — sadness, confusion and anger — questioning how anyone would perpetrate such an act of violence. Over the past several weeks since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks and the Israel-Hamas war, so many of our students, faculty and staff already have shared with me and other administrators their deep anxiety and fear about rising tensions and violence locally, globally and around the world. As Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes shared earlier this month, a team of staff continue to ensure that members of our community are receiving the care they need.

We are prepared to offer ongoing support for those with concerns about their emotional and physical safety across identities, backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. We have members of our community who continue to struggle in significant and personal ways with the ongoing violence in Israel, Gaza and across the Middle East, including some who are living daily in fear for the wellbeing of their families or loved ones.

Vice President Estes and Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Sylvia Carey-Butler will follow up with the community in the coming days about the ways we continue to care for and support all members of our community. And please remember, if you or someone you know have a concern about threats to your safety, you should call the Department of Public Safety directly and immediately (401-863-4111).

I hope you’ll join me on the Main Green tomorrow to be in community together.


Christina H. Paxson