College and University Responses/Reactions to Murder of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd

College and university solidarity statements

Project STAND is documenting the statements made by leadership at colleges and universities across the country in the aftermath of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. Many academic institutions have responded with “Solidarity Statements” via email, websites, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media platforms. The responses of academic organizations must be shared broadly to have clarity and understanding of how our institutions respond to critical issues of social injustice. Project STAND will also include critiques of statements as responses are published.

PRESIDENTIAL STATEMENTS

Princeton University Board of Trustees’ decision on use of Woodrow Wilson’s name June 26, 2020

“If the question before us were how to weigh Wilson’s achievements against his failures, members of the Princeton community might reach varying judgments. We believe, however, that these times present the University with a different question. Identifying a political leader as the namesake for a public policy school inevitably suggests that the honoree is a role model for those who study in the school. We must therefore ask whether it is acceptable for this University’s school of public affairs to bear the name of a racist who segregated the nation’s civil service after it had been integrated for decades. This question has been made more urgent by the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, which have served as tragic reminders of the ongoing need for all of us to stand against racism and for equality and justice.” by the Office of Communications June 27, 2020

William & Mary

“As we have listened to our campus over the last several days, we have heard recurring questions about the relationship between W&M’s own law enforcement officers and other members of our community. Chief Deb Cheesebro, Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of WMPD, has heard those questions as well, and has responded to many of the community’s concerns in a message that appears below. We are fortunate, indeed, to have her leading our police department.”  Provost Peggy Agouris, June 2, 2020

brandeis

Transforming our campus to eliminate systemic bias

I said then that we must do more; we must do better.

In that spirit, I am announcing an initiative that will transform our campus and address systemic racism. I have asked key administrators to develop and submit action plans in the next 90 days.

  • These action plans must include ongoing, significant engagement with members of the campus community. We must listen, and understand the kinds of systemic racism, bias, and ill-treatment experienced by Black members of our community. But we must go further than dialogue and understanding. We must rapidly move toward concrete change.
  • The action plans I am calling for must be transformational, including new approaches regarding the roles and responsibilities of Public Safety, the Department of Community Living, Human Resources, Athletics, the Academy, and all of us who are charged with creating and sustaining a safe, respectful environment for learning and living.
  • Action plans must be developed with broad input from diverse constituencies. Black students, Black student organizations, other students of color, other student organizations, faculty, members of each of the aforementioned departments, and other staff should all be invited to be part of the drafting process.

I am asking the following administrators to develop and submit these action plans by September 1: 

    • Executive Vice President Stew Uretsky, Vice President of Campus Operations Lois Stanley, Vice President for Human Resources Robin Switzer, and Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Ed Callahan for the plans for Public Safety and Human Resources
    • Vice Provost for Student Affairs Raymond Ou, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Tim Touchette, and Director of Athletics Lauren Haynie for the plans for Community Living, Residential Life, and Athletics
    • Provost Lisa Lynch, Dean Eric Chasalow, Dean Dorothy Hodgson, Dean Katy Graddy, Dean David Weil, and Vice President Lynne Rosansky for the plan for the Academy and its constituent Schools

June 9, 2020

emerson college:

princeton

“If the question before us were how to weigh Wilson’s achievements against his failures, members of the Princeton community might reach varying judgments. We believe, however, that these times present the University with a different question. Identifying a political leader as the namesake for a public policy school inevitably suggests that the honoree is a role model for those who study in the school. We must therefore ask whether it is acceptable for this University’s school of public affairs to bear the name of a racist who segregated the nation’s civil service after it had been integrated for decades. This question has been made more urgent by the recent killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Rayshard Brooks, which have served as tragic reminders of the ongoing need for all of us to stand against racism and for equality and justice.” by the Office of Communications June 27, 2020

Statement from President Eisgruber on the killing of George Floyd and the importance of confronting racism

In my Commencement address for today’s virtual ceremony, I say that members of the Class of 2020 graduate into hard times, and that the world needs not only their talent, but their insight, courage, and compassion. Though I recorded that speech less than two weeks ago, intervening events have reminded us that COVID-19 is not the only tragic challenge facing our students and our world.

We have witnessed yet again how this nation’s long legacy of racism continues to damage and destroy the lives of black people. The heartless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis occurred soon after the unjust shootings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.  It coincided with the appalling harassment of Christian Cooper in New York’s Central Park, an incident that demonstrated how easily a racist complaint could put a black man in danger. The COVID-19 pandemic itself has killed black and brown Americans at higher rates than other groups, magnifying disparities in healthcare and economic well-being.

We all have a responsibility to stand up against racism, wherever and whenever we encounter it. Commitments to diversity, inclusivity, and human rights are fundamental to the mission of Princeton University. I ask all of us to join the graduates in the Class of 2020 in their quest to form a better society, one that confronts racism honestly and strives relentlessly for equality and justice. June 1, 2020

statement from spelman college

“To say, “this has got to stop” would be tantamount to shouting into the wind. We have said “this has got to stop” too many times. We need to take steps in the coming days, weeks, months and years to change.

Atlanta prides itself on being an urban leader. The mission of each school in the Atlanta University Center includes producing leaders. This is an opportunity for leadership.

I invite Atlanta Police Department leaders to sit with the student and administrative leadership of the AUC to find a way to forge a cooperative partnership that has as its goal the protection and safety of all of our citizens. ” May 31, 2020

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. President, Spelman College

georgetown

“In the midst of this devastating experience, the original fault line of our republic has been exposed once again for the nation.  We grieve the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia as unconscionable acts of violence.  Their deaths, and subsequent nationwide protests, once again present our country—and each one of us—with the imperative to confront the enduring legacy of slavery and segregation in America.

On too many occasions over the years, there has been cause for me to share reflections with our community, as we grapple with the devastating impact of racism and hatred in our nation.  In August 2014, following the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; in December 2015, following the grand jury decision in the killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York; in August 2017, following the march of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.  In these moments, which encompass far from the full extent of experiences of racism and racist violence, I have tried to frame the work in which we must engage within the mission and purpose of the Academy.  Our role in society—to pursue the truth—through the methodologies and disciplines through which we establish knowledge in our world, demands our engagement.  In our response, we have sought to accelerate our academic commitment to addressing racial justice, and to address our own connection to the institution of slavery and the enduring legacy of racism and to undo the structural elements that sustain this legacy.” May 31, 2020

San Francisco State University

Cultural Humility in the Face of Tragedy and Turmoil

“On March 25, George Valentine, an aide to the mayor of Washington D.C., struggling to breathe, entered the hospital and died two days later, a victim of COVID-19.

On May 25, George Floyd died after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer.

On May 25, Christian Cooper was birding in Central Park when a white woman weaponized her race and gender to falsely accuse him of a crime.

These men did not know one another. They held different jobs, lived in different cities, grew up in different circumstances. But they are all African American and all experienced the consequences of the United States’ long history of persistent racism.” May 29, 2020

UMN adjusts relationship with MPD following death of George Floyd​

The move comes a day after undergraduate student body president Jael Kerandi publicly demanded that the University cease all partnerships with MPD, launching a petition on social media. Tuesday also saw protests against police brutality in South Minneapolis, which have garnered international attention. 

May 27, 2020

“George Floyd suffered a horrendous and completely unnecessary death. His killing, and those that have come before, demand that we create a different future. This can and must be our task.

This time, we must act. That starts with dialogue, which I have renewed with key community partners. We must reaffirm our commitment as Buckeyes to our university values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance.

Today, let us also act by reflecting on what’s in our hearts and directing our activities to collaborative efforts to produce lasting change.” Michael V. Drake, May 29, 2020

Michigan state university

“All of this is taking a heavy emotional toll on many of our friends, families and fellow Spartans. These events remind us that we have a responsibility to engage in the work necessary to understand we live in a diverse world and a diverse campus community, and by virtue of this we also have a responsibility to each other to respond to these injustices – acknowledge them, empathize with one another and accept each other.

We are committed to building an inclusive environment here at MSU, one that recognizes and respects people of all backgrounds and experiences. However, this commitment must be manifested in ways that extend well beyond words. We hope you will do what you can as students, faculty and staff at MSU to fight racism, disrupt injustice and actively support each other. The next several months will test our resolve, our community and our nation. “

Sincerely,

 

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D., Interim Provost              Teresa A. Sullivan, President                                               

May 29, 2020

University of Michigan

The reality and scope of this problem are pervasive. A 2018 study whose authors included U-M Institute for Social Research fellow Michael Esposito found that “the risk of being killed by police, relative to White men, is between 3.2 and 3.5 times higher for Black men.” Thanks to U-M Political Science Prof. Christian Davenport, we know that the exercising of fundamental rights is treated differently, as “African American protest events are more likely to draw police presence, even when we control for the measures of behavioral threat.”

At U-M, we must use our power to address major societal problems – especially those that diminish our society so tragically. This is clear in our mission.

Our mission is also why our work to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion must continue. The University of Michigan has a critical role to play and obligation to lead the kind of changes in our society that we all want to see. I know that our Division of Public Safety and Security is committed to being a continuing partner in this ongoing work. DEI will continue as a major focus of the institution throughout my presidency, beyond our initial five-year Strategic Plan. We must utilize our scholarship, the education and the engagement of our talented faculty, students, and staff to bring about change not only within the university, but also in our broader society. Our collective future depends on it.” May 29, 2020

 

Cornell: Statement on the Recent Killings of Black People in America

Dear Cornellians,

I am heartbroken, angry and frankly sickened by the recent killing of George Floyd, and before him, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others whose deaths are less well publicized.

The amount of pain in the Black community is unfathomable, especially as these are occurring in the midst of a pandemic that is having such a disproportionate impact on communities of color.

Decent people and institutions cannot stand silent while such violence against our fellow citizens continues.

I want to make clear, both personally and on behalf of Cornell, that we will do all we can as a university to address this scourge of racism. We will address it directly in our educational programs, in our research and in our engagement and related activities, working through the ways we know best to push for a world that is equitable and kind; where people do not have to fear for their lives because of the color of their skin; and where everyone has the same opportunities to grow, thrive and enjoy their lives.

My heart goes out to everyone who is feeling the pain of these recent incidents.

Sincerely,

Martha

“This is just some of what I believe. I hope you will pause during these troubled times to ask what you believe. Even more importantly, I hope you will find the strength and determination to act on your beliefs—to repair and perfect this imperfect world. Those of us privileged to work or study at a place like this bear special responsibilities. As Luke teaches us, from those to whom much is given, much is expected.” Bacow, May 30, 2020

 

criticism

Harvard President’s Statement On Protests Invites Criticism As College Leaders Speak Out

“If you’re going to send a letter about values, take a meaningful stand or delve into the complexity we face,” says another tweet about Bacow’s letter. “This statement, sadly, says nothing,” tweeted a third critic.

UVA and Harvard Presidents Criticized for Their Responses to George Floyd’s Death

The Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign also had harsh words for Bacow. Students at the campaign have filed a suit against Harvard over the institution’s alleged investments in companies with ties to the prison industry. They allege Harvard’s endowment invests in prisons.

university of maryland

“We are deeply concerned about insufficient police accountability across the country, systemic racism, and the social, economic, and health inequities that have led to protests born of despair, anger, and hope. We support the many peaceful demonstrations for justice across the United States.

We acknowledge that we have our own painful history at UMD, which includes the tragic murder of Lt. Richard Collins III.” Wallace Loh, May 31, 2020

“We have begun the process of coordinating virtual reflection spaces for departments and units, where we can come together to try and process what has happened. With assistance from the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and the university’s Equity Advisors, we are also trying to share ways we can honestly and humbly acknowledge the pain and search for solutions. This includes working with student government leaders to understand and address the needs of our students. Our efforts will be updated on the Resources for Racial Trauma web page as we push forward to deeper understanding and genuine change.

We conclude by stating unequivocally that Black lives DO matter. They matter at UCLA. They matter in Minnesota. They matter everywhere.” Chancellor’s Office, May 30, 2020

wright state university

“Dear Wright State family,

It is not enough to say that Wright State University has an unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion. I want to express our horror at the tragic and disturbing events that unfurled in Minneapolis this week. This is yet another painful reminder of the persistence of racial inequity and injustice in our country, and it only underscores our responsibility to stand together in solidarity against acts like this and to promote equity and inclusion.” Sue Edwards May 30, 2020

duke university

But we as a university must do more than recognize and grieve these circumstances; we must work together to change them.  In our Duke statement of values, we affirm our commitment to trust, respect, and inclusion. In that spirit, Duke University will continue the work of addressing generations of racism and injustice, of seeking ways to approach one another with respect, and of building communities that are truly safe, supportive, and inclusive for all.

My very best wishes to the entire Duke family in this troubling time.

Sincerely,
Vincent E. Price
President

May 30, 2020

library responses

ucla

A Message from University Librarian Virginia Steel – June 2, 2020

“Combatting racism will require all of us to take action. UCLA Library will launch an anti-racism initiative through which we will listen to and learn from staff, address the issues that arise, and reevaluate our processes and procedures. This initiative will begin in the coming weeks with a series of dialogues, where we will be sure to create an inclusive space for our staff of all backgrounds. Together, I am confident we will move forward to deepen our understanding in order to advance genuine change.”

June 2, 2020

UNC LIBRARIES

The University Libraries’ Role in Reckoning with Systemic Racism and Oppression

A message from Vice Provost for University Libraries and University Librarian Elaine L. Westbrooks

“What can we do to ensure that the University Libraries is fully committed to action? Today I announce a new University Librariesinitiative to engage that work of reckoning. The University Libraries, like any institution, operates through a set of legacy systems that have been in place for decades. These systems implicitly and explicitly perpetuate inequity because they have been traditionally centered on whiteness and patriarchy as a default. They permeate everything that we do—what we collect, how we describe it, how we deliver services, how we organize our operational functions and design our spaces, how we structure our budget, where we invest resources, how we recruit, what we choose to elevate and highlight. 

Although we aspire to be inclusive, we often miss the mark because we do not focus on the systems that create and perpetuate inequity. We must have the will to seriously interrogate each system and to understand how it fails to advance equity and justice. We must then determine how we will reform these systems and implement change with courage and conviction. That is the goal and necessary outcome of our initiative for reckoning. I will be sharing more information with you in the weeks ahead about how we will proceed.”

June, 1, 2020

CUNY

css.phpBlack Lives Matter

The Mina Rees Library of the CUNY Graduate Center declares our opposition to the racial terror and state-sanctioned violence that shape the lives of Black people in the United States. Black lives matter. We share the sorrow and rage of our community and stand in solidarity with protests against police brutality. We hold ourselves accountable to work against the policing of CUNY and its libraries. This statement affirms our commitment to anti-racist practice and our pledge to use our skills and resources to advance the production of knowledge for social justice.

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