Dear Campus Community,
As we reflect on the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the brutal murder of George Floyd, I am hopeful that we can take some solace in the realization that, in this case at least, the justice system worked. The racism and senseless cruelty of one police officer has been acknowledged by a jury and that police officer will be held accountable.
While one hopes that this verdict might signify a turning point in our nation’s long and ugly history of institutional racism, as African Americans and other BIPOC people know all too well, there is much more work to be done to create a truly just and equitable society. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright and so many others are emblematic of a degree of racism in our society that runs deep and will take a concerted and deliberate effort to root out. The healing and reconciliation we all seek cannot be achieved without a reckoning. Such a reckoning can only come with an acknowledgement of the injustices that have been endured by African Americans and other BIPOC members of our society. We must recognize that as a university our role in bringing about these changes is central and not peripheral. We have an opportunity to enact real change, and we can and should embrace it.
At UMass Amherst, we must commit ourselves to be actively anti-racist and to acknowledge and confront injustice and inequity in all aspects of campus life. Doing so may be hard and in many instances uncomfortable for some, but it is necessary if we are going to build a society that embraces the ideals of equity and justice. With an acknowledgement that there is so much more for us to do, some of the initiatives we have undertaken to confront racism and foster a more inclusive community include:
- Naming the Fine Arts Center the Randolph W. Bromery Fine Arts Center to honor our first Black Chancellor
- Launching the inaugural Black Student Athlete Summit, dedicated to centering the experiences, needs, and advancement of Black student athletes
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Self-Assessment Reports being conducted this spring by every school and college to assess current diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism and climate standing, with the goal of building on this baseline assessment each year
- Keynote speakers and campus-wide conversations centered on racialized organizations in higher education, the intersection of race and economic privilege, and a Black History Month series on the Dignity and Respect in Action (DARIA) Podcast
- Launching of the Center of Racial Justice and Youth Engaged Research, led by Dr. Jamila Lyiscott and Keisha Green
- An emphasis in our upcoming fundraising campaign on need-based scholarships, grants and support for BIPOC students
It is of paramount importance that we stand united and reject racism and bigotry in all its forms. We must also acknowledge that our own community is far from perfect, and we must always strive to be better and to foster a community that is grounded in the concept of dignity and respect for all.
Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy