Dear Campus Community:

The tragic death of George Floyd has left me heartbroken, angry, and overwhelmed by grief. But of course, it is not my grief that matters and I fully recognize that my grief pales in comparison to the parents who have lost their children, to the siblings who have lost brothers and sisters, and to our communities who have lost valuable members and leaders of our collective society.   As we are witnessing the responses across our country, it is clear that we are all intensely connected by our humanity.

Our collective outrage is especially exacerbated on the heels of the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the video involving the disturbing treatment of Christian Cooper in Central Park. These events have also evoked memories of Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and innumerable others that have not received the same level of media attention as we are seeing now. With these inescapable reminders combined with our own personal life experiences, our emotions are understandably and rightfully heightened and amplified.

Now is the time when we must be mindful and steady in supporting one another and hold steadfast to our belief that racism, hate, and bigotry have no place in our world. This moment is a harsh reminder that we still have so much work to do to overcome explicit and implicit expressions of racism, inequities and systemic oppression that continue to adversely affect so many individuals, families, and communities.

The root cause of these horrifying acts is institutional racism and one vital solution to such terror is education. Our University mission and daily work is key to facilitating the type of transformational change that is possible and needed at the systemic level. Our work in empowering students through their education, as well as the never-ending education of ourselves, will serve as the foundation of this process. This will require us to engage in ongoing self-reflection and cognitive work that is required to fully examine and challenge our own assumptions and beliefs; to embed this work into our classrooms, scholarly activities, co-curricular programming, and day-to-day interactions; and to intentionally create spaces where we can fully engage in these challenging, complex and uncomfortable discussions.

In the face of a world-wide pandemic, this work is especially difficult. However, we must remain fully committed to this work no matter the barriers that challenge our success.  I have asked the President’s Council on Inclusive Excellence to provide me with recommendations for how to address these systemic racial barriers and inequities at both the individual and University-wide levels.

I remain incredibly grateful to work with a campus community whose foundational values of equity and inclusion serve as the driving force in propelling us forward to a more just and equitable future for us all.  As stated by Martin Luther King Jr. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Now is the time for us to act for justice, to speak for equity, to change from within, and to dismantle racism.


Sincerely,
Erika D. Beck, Ph.D.
President

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