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University presidents discuss civil unrest with their communities

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Dear UD Community,

Our society is calling for equity and social justice. I hear you, and I am part of that call. We can do better as a university community. And we will do it together.

Over the past several days, many of you have written to me or posted your thoughts on social media to express your anger and frustration about the racial injustices that have been laid bare by the social unrest taking place in our nation. What’s more, I have been truly heartbroken to hear the stories of discrimination and prejudice that many of you have experienced, whether in our broader society or, unfortunately, here within our own community. It is so disturbing to see that some individuals do not grasp the insidious nature of racism and the very real pain caused by offensive and exclusionary language.

Every member of our community — students, faculty, and staff — is welcomed and valued at the University of Delaware. We must ensure that everyone is treated with respect and a sense of belonging. We should seek to find commonality, humanity, and civility to bridge our differences. We condemn the discriminatory and inflammatory words used by some members of our community. They do not reflect the University’s values. We are addressing each of these situations in accordance with the University’s conduct and non-discrimination policies.

Last week, the nationwide protests began as a response to the senseless deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky — as well as the long list of other victims of discrimination and violence in American history. The global consciousness that has been reawakened by these tragedies must continue to advance our progress toward a society that is anti-racist and anti-hate. Education lies at the heart of this effort and is the key to real and lasting change.

Without a doubt, the University of Delaware can and must do more to expand diversity and promote inclusion and equity in our community. Since coming to UD, I have tried to face the challenges of history and culture that I see. Indeed, building inclusive excellence has always been personally important to me. While we have made strides in diversifying our faculty ranks and our student enrollment, there is clearly additional work to be done. I am committed — as is my administration — to redoubling our efforts to increase minority representation among our students, faculty and staff. But we know that the numbers are just one component of the equation. We must work ever harder to promote a more inclusive culture throughout UD where everyone is valued and all can expand their potential and believe in a better future.

To this end, I will be working closely with campus leaders to ensure progress and action around key needs of the University. Recognizing that these are both priorities and opportunities to take UD forward, we all need to take the following steps:

• We need to build a more inclusive culture — Through education for all members of our community, we can cultivate a greater appreciation of the value of diverse peoples, cultures and perspectives. This is absolutely essential in modern society and directly supports our institutional mission to prepare our citizens to succeed. This semester we piloted on online diversity, equity, and inclusion education module. We will plan to require this training of all undergraduate and graduate students beginning in this upcoming academic year.

• We need to listen and learn — We are planning a series of forums that will span the entire next academic year where all members of our community will have their voices heard and acknowledged. The input gathered at these forums will help inform our next steps as we continue to improve our campus climate with actionable initiatives. We are also mindful of those who have been silent, and we encourage them to come forward and share their stories, perspectives and ideas.

• We need to act now — We will strengthen our collective awareness of and response to prejudice, diligently recruit underrepresented faculty and students, and raise funds for social justice initiatives on campus. We will also connect our campus-wide efforts and networks into
a more robust agenda for larger impact.

• We need to ensure accountability and operate effectively together as a united community — Everyone is responsible, and this needs to be enforced through renewed policies and practices using a framework where differences are respected and celebrated. We must also ensure that our campus climate and culture assessments are frequent and thorough, and that they reaffirm our commitment to improve the diversity and inclusion landscape at UD.

• We have more to do — This list is not exhaustive, nor will it ever end. Our work to build a more equitable and inclusive society must be ongoing. We will remain committed to being open, to listening and to working together to make progress possible at UD. We not only welcome your active engagement; we need it. This
is a call to action for everyone here now and with ties to UD.

There will be additional steps in the coming weeks and months. I welcome your input as we move forward. Please always feel free to reach out to Michael Vaughan, interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion, at [email protected], or José-Luis Riera, vice president for student life, at [email protected].

This is an extraordinarily challenging time for all of us. I am inspired by the strength, the caring and the unshakable resolve of the University of Delaware community, and I ask you to join me in recommitting ourselves to ensuring that our institution continues to be a source of pride for all students, all faculty, all staff, all alumni … all people.

Sincerely,

Dennis Assanis

President


To the members of the Goldey-Beacom College Community:

Listen to these names: Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Daniel Simmons, Myra Thompson and now Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and one week ago, George Floyd. The first nine names are the victims of the mass-shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC in 2015. The last three names are the most recent victims killed in racially-charged incidents in our country. There are many, many others.

Five years ago, I was living in South Carolina when the Emanuel AME Church shooting happened in Charleston. Like you, I watched the news coverage with horror and dismay. More recently, I watched again in horror and dismay the racial tension and unrest that has gripped our country.

We at Goldey-Beacom College could say something as simple as we express our grief at these continuing instances of racial violence in our country but issuing such statements, while helpful to approach healing,
tend to fall flat. We have to do better and we will.

Goldey-Beacom College is committed to addressing racism, inequality, and injustice in lasting and meaningful ways. We will stand with those who demand justice and accountability and reaffirm our commitment to educate and act in ways that will help to create a world where all are safe to pursue their lives. It is our obligation as an institution of higher education to prepare citizens who will go on to create a world where understanding and tolerance are widespread values. Let’s make that a daily, living commitment as we go forward.

Thank you.

Colleen Perry Keith, Ph.D.

President


Dear Wesley College Family,

The uncertainty and unprecedented challenges resultant from the COVID-19 Pandemic that we all face, have now been accompanied by the despicable side of humanity as our nation watched in horror as George Floyd’s life was taken by an individual who was supposed to protect and serve life. Additionally, peaceful protests for social justice are being overshadowed by the current lawless and self-destructive acts of violence erupting across our country.

We, as a campus community and family, can be the spirit of unity that provides a path of education and healing to a country and society so desperate for hope. Collectively we condemn any type of racism, intolerance, or violence, while doing our best to foster a campus culture that is welcoming, inclusive, respectful, compassionate, tolerant, ethical, and just. 

As our nation looks for answers…as our nation looks to heal…as our nation looks for hope and change…look no further than Wesley College, or other institutions of higher learning, where differences are embraced, inequities challenged, and all races, genders, persuasions, ideals, and views are embraced and celebrated – not minimized, ridiculed, or persecuted. 

We can make a difference, and we must make a difference, so that,“…one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all…” is not just a phrase in a sacred pledge to our flag, but a reality that is shared by all those who live under the blanket of freedom that our flag represents, and is supposed to provide.

All The Best

Robert E. Clark II 

President of the College


Delaware State University President Tony Allen sent the following message to faculty and staff on May 29, 2020 – before the weekend civil unrest– and distributed it to students on June 1.

This is Us . . . and that is no longer acceptable

Reacting to Ahmaud Arbery’s murder in Georgia, Dean Francine Edwards of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences recently captured the fear of Black parents across America: “This is why I will always have fear in my heart. I have three brown sons.” Reflecting on George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis Police Officer, and the ‘Cooper incident’ between an avid birdwatcher who happen to be black and a white woman walking her dog, Alumnus and entrepreneur Kevin Wright titled his LinkedIn comments, “This Is US.”

At this moment, when the future feels so uncertain, it is past time for America to confront the fact that the most dangerous virus gnawing at us from within is still racism. There are countless stories of oppression that lead to false accusations of wrongdoing; disproportionate rates of poverty and incarceration; health disparities stemming from socio-economic circumstance; anti-immigrant prejudice; black and white middle-class flight from “urban” areas; police misconduct; glass ceilings in corporate America; and senseless murder all around.

As Kevin said in his “This Is US” piece, some of you have already stopped reading and moved on. That’s understandable: it feels like there is so much turmoil and upheaval that it is easy to become desensitized. Some believe themselves already well-versed in these matters and already on the side of what is fair, just, and true, while others both empathize and understand the issue, but are simply tired of hearing
terms like “systemic,” “the Man,” and “power structure.”

Yet we are each unquestionably shaped by our individual experience of the world around us. Like Dean Edwards, I have brown sons. I have received and given the obligatory “talk” to my boys about how they need to conduct themselves in moments of crisis or friction, aware that it does not guarantee their safety. Like all of you, I share direct responsibility for several thousand young Black men annually entrusted to Delaware State University’s care. Our moral duty toward them is unparalleled in a 21st Century in which too many continue to be identified as dangerous and violent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The University confronts current challenges and future uncertainties, but there are certain values and requirements engraved on the soul of the institution we aspire to be. If equipping our students to not only understand but also engage in the amelioration of racism isn’t a part of the core reason for our existence, then we should close our doors.

To be clear, racism is “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s race is superior and has the right to dominate others.” When racism turns systemic, you don’t even need to be racist to reap its benefits or feel its effects.
It just is.

And that is no longer acceptable.

Not for us. Not for a University that has counted Freedom Riders among its faculty, and whose most senior professor can recall the National Guard occupying not just Wilmington, but also our Dover campus in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination.

It’s time we make the issue of systemic racism and what it has wrought a priority in everything we do – in teaching, intellectual discourse, research, on the field of play, in
or outside of the classroom, and for the communities we serve.

I am not mandating specific strategies or approaches because I don’t have to. Our faculty and staff are adults with imagination, compassion, and conscience, and I believe fervently in your collective wisdom. We don’t need another forum, or a CBA renegotiation, or committees to study guidelines: we need to think, feel, and do.

I expect that we will each more consciously use our extraordinary talents, and those of our students, to build a more just, tolerant University community that sees itself
as a fierce, institutional champion in the ongoing struggle against systemic racism.
We need to be not only responsible, but fearless.

If you are still not moved, let these names sit with you for awhile1:

• George Floyd • Ahmaud Arbery • Amadou Diallo

• Manuel Loggins, Jr. • Ronald Madison • Kendra James

• Sean Bell • Eric Garner • Michael Brown

• Alston Sterling • Philando Castile • Ariel Denkins

• Gregory Gun • Samuel DuBose • Brendon Glenn

• Trayvon Martin • Freddie Gray • Natasha McKenna

• Walter Scott • Christian Taylor • Ezell Ford

• Sandra Bland • Akai Gurley • Laquan McDonald

Then remember these words, penned in 1831 by Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison: “I am in earnest. I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will
not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.”  


To the Delaware Tech Community:

Like you, I was outraged and saddened last week at the images of yet another assault on a member of the African American community at the hands of a law enforcement officer. Tragically, this horrible act followed just weeks after a young jogger was attacked and killed while running through his neighborhood. Both recent events have become stark reminders of the ongoing racism that permeates our society and the institutions of justice that were created to protect everyone.

Our College serves more Delaware students of color than any institution of higher education in our state, and our campuses have, for over 50 years, served as safe spaces and centers of opportunity for all Delawareans, especially the disenfranchised and citizens on the perimeters of economic progress. Our student population represents every community in our state, and Delaware employers thrive because of that ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity. And more important, our state is a better place to work and raise our families because of the work we all do together to provide those opportunities.

We will remain steadfast in that mission and remain committed to providing access to education, hope, and opportunity for all Delawareans, especially now, as we all work toward eliminating the chronic injustice and insurmountable barriers that remain in place for our brothers and sisters who pursue better lives through educational opportunity – and justice – in our state and in our country.  

Mark T. Brainard

President


Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who are grappling with all which is taking place surrounding the senseless death of Mr. George Floyd.

Mr. Floyd’s death is but the most recent of many injustices experienced by people of color over a lifetime, over many centuries in America. We all see life through very different lenses. Few if any of us feel we are racist, and/or prejudiced and discriminate against others who are different, yet our skin tone, our gender, our sexual orientation, and our age do influence how we are looked upon by others.

These very troubled times are hurtful, damaging, tragic, and angering to us all. My hope, my prayer is that we can make this a time to move forward together, positively.

We, each/all, must lead the way out of these very difficult times. It is not enough for us to say, “this is terrible, this should not have occurred”. Some of us may look upon the death of Mr. Floyd as an isolated incident, while others know that it was not. Leadership Delaware is an organization of very diverse LEADERS. As such, we have the opportunity to learn from many others in their widely diverse industries. We should not allow the actions of some to negatively impact how an entire profession is viewed.
We must unite our communities. Unite with our protectors. Black, brown, white,
rich and poor, young and old. We must all work toward change together.

We ask, we implore you, make a difference.

This is not a time for well-meaning words and “resolutions” to do better, but to personally take action. Reach out, calm the troubled waters of all around you, be more understanding, more empathetic. Lead with an open heart. Recognize that each of us do carry within us biases against others who are not like us. Acknowledge it. Talk about it. Listen respectfully to the thoughts, perspectives, and opinions of others. Practice tolerance. Even celebrate the differences between us. You can respect someone’s opinions even if you disagree. Come from a perspective of acceptance and love.

Our Leadership Delaware family are truly people of influence, as are you! And with that comes responsibility… a privilege and an expectation that we must lead the way.

Our call to action is simply this… Today and tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives we must make a difference. We must do our best in every possible way to give others the opportunities and respect which we all deserve.

I encourage us all to continue our growth as leaders and to consider the roles we
must play. Let us continue to do what we do, to positively impact communities and transform society.

This truly is a time to say to ourselves, to you, to every member of the Leadership Delaware family, and to all in our worlds… If not now, when? If not me, who?  

Terry Strine and the Leadership Delaware Team

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