Members of the Campus Community,
As we continue to battle the COVID-19 global pandemic, another virus – racism – continues to plague our nation. Like many of you, I was angered and dismayed last week by the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This tragedy is horrific in its own right, yet it also underscores the immense urgency of addressing systemic racism in our country as we face yet another appalling incident of injustice involving a member of the Black community.
Undoubtedly, this most recent tragedy and the many that preceded it are weighing heavy on the hearts of many of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends. As a member of a campus community that strives to be welcoming, accepting, and respectful of all people, we have a duty to support our peers, colleagues, and friends who are impacted by injustice during these troubling times. But to truly move our society forward, we bear a greater responsibility – one that requires an active commitment to anti-racism.
As an educational institution committed to the development of responsible citizens, it is our obligation to help our community navigate these challenging times and develop an understanding regarding what it means to be anti-racist. Listening and dialogue will be paramount in this process. Thus, we invite the entire campus community to engage in a new discussion series – Raider Real Talk – dedicated to matters related to diversity and identity. These sessions, sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, will be held every other week via Zoom and will tackle topics such as civil unrest and recent events; racial, ethnic, and personal identity; and the future of diversity and inclusion on campus. Keep an eye on your email for details regarding these events and other opportunities for diversity-related dialogue.
I realize that there is more that we could, and should, be doing to combat injustice in our world. To that end, I have asked Ron Holden and Dr. Niki Johnson to chair an anti-racism task force that will be charged with inventorying our current efforts, recommending new initiatives, setting goals for improvement, and evaluating our impact. The task force will include representation from across the entire campus community, including faculty, staff, and students. As I am re-familiarizing myself with campus, this group will inform the members of President’s Council and me regarding potential next steps in our efforts to combat racism.
As the fall semester gets underway, I encourage each of you to engage in thoughtful dialogue with your peers and colleagues. Let us work together to make others welcome and fully respected in our learning community, with each person on campus receiving respect and an invitation into conversation that moves us forward.
Tom Botzman, Ph.D., President