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DSU President’s Statement on Racism, Outrage and Response

June 8, 2020

To the DSU Community:

It has been two weeks since I’m sure most of you saw the video of George Floyd being handcuffed by police, then restrained in a manner that resulted in his death. How could anyone who viewed that video not be horrified as Floyd begged for air and bystanders pleaded for his life? For eight minutes and forty-six seconds, eight minutes and forty-six seconds, Floyd’s neck was squeezed by the full weight of the police officer’s knee. Where was the common sense, the compassion, the humanity? Horror turned to disbelief, sadness, anger and outrage. We grieve for George Floyd, his family and friends. We know the Black community is frustrated and hurting. We stand with and support those in our community who want to be seen for who they are, their voices heard, their experience understood, and meaningful commitment to justice and action.

We cannot, must not look away. We cannot, must not sweep this under the rug and go on with our own lives as if nothing has happened. This occurred in our back yards. It is time for us to open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to the pain of others.

At the same time we can recognize the importance of a lawful and just society. Violence and lawlessness cannot be tolerated. But support for the Black community and for law enforcement are not irreconcilable. We can support the right to protest and denounce the use of protest to inflict physical or economic harm on others. We can support law enforcement and denounce the use of excessive force and abuse of power.

The unnecessary and untimely deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry have shone a spotlight on racial inequality and injustice in the U.S. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic with its attendant lockdown and stay-at home orders have created a powder keg of loss of life, loss of jobs, loss of freedom of movement, fear, uncertainty and frustration that have highlighted racial, economic and social inequalities in the US and around the world. We at DSU support the faculty, students and staff who are calling on us to lead the way to address injustice and disadvantage wherever they exist. DSU should be a place where everyone can find a home regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, faith, sexual orientation, politics, etc. All forms of discrimination and of violence, wherever they occur, are an absolute violation of our values. Every single one of us must understand how discrimination and marginalization operate in our society, including at DSU, and be bold in calling them out.

Institutions of higher education are places where we can meet people from all walks of life with different backgrounds and experiences. They are places where we can hear, reflect on and explore new ideas. By doing so we learn not only about others but about ourselves. And we learn that each of us brings with us our own contexts that frame our perceptions and beliefs. So too we learn that historical, cultural and situational contexts are essential to a deeper understanding of meaning. To effect positive and meaningful change we need to be willing to listen, open to the context of others, open to accept others for who they are, ready to work to forge a path forward together in order to be productive members of society and to strengthen our communities.

Earlier this year I charged DSU’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee to develop an institutional plan. I intend to ask them to consider and recommend specific actions we can take to address bias, discrimination, marginalization and inequities at DSU.

But we cannot simply delegate responsibility for these areas to a committee. We each need to accept responsibility for the community we enjoy. I call on all of you to join together with me to address the unintended consequences of tradition, of process, of our interactions and decisions especially as they relate to minority groups. We have a chance to be proactive, mindful and deliberate about what we do and how we do it, in order to model and promote the values we espouse as an institution. We commit that DSU will act and will not be satisfied with the status quo.


Signature of President Griffiths
José-Marie Griffiths, President