Dear Students and Colleagues,
Amidst the ongoing tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic, the recent months have also brought pain and shock from the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. This senseless loss of life has come under the guise of public safety, but we know these instances of aggression are merely part of the long history of violence against African Americans.
From the fear and indignities suffered by people of color in everyday life, such as the one recently experienced by an African American bird watcher in Central Park, to the physical mistreatment and environmental destruction of black communities across the country, racism is a scourge on our country and cannot be abided. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis has sparked spontaneous protests across the country—and the world—against police misconduct and brutality. These protests are a rightful call to end unwarranted and unlawful violence perpetrated by those sworn to protect us and our community.
Although the overwhelming majority of protestors, in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., have shown a commitment to peace as they advocate for change, a smaller group has rampaged through a number of our cities inciting violence and damaging property. This is alarming, and for many in our community, brings back terrible memories of destruction and division from our region’s past. We are witnessing yet again how violence begets violence, but as history has borne witness, such actions lead only to long lasting suffering and trauma.
The cycle of violence must be broken. Our opportunity for a peaceful and just society lies in the hard work of change being done today. We have already seen this work take place. At demonstrations throughout the nation, including Michigan, police officers have taken a knee or marched in solidarity with those demanding change. This acknowledgment of the need for reform is a welcome first sign of what we all hope will be a more equitable future.
Our university is helping to design a positive way forward. As part of our commitment to producing a more just and equitable society, the university created a program in 2017 to help reimagine the use of force within local police departments. Alternatives to Violent Force is a program designed to guide police officers in thinking differently about how they handle confrontations. The goal of the program is to end the “Us vs. Them” mindset and has been adopted and praised by leaders of law enforcement throughout our region.
We at the University of Michigan-Dearborn stand together for justice, inclusion, and peace. In that spirit, I have asked my chief of staff, Keisha Blevins, Dean Ann Lampkin-Williams, and my strategic planning co-chair, Deborah Smith Pollard to assemble a working group to strengthen our awareness and amplify our commitment to respect, inclusion and diversity. We remain devoted to our mission of serving our students and the public good, and that commitment will see us through these difficult times.
I encourage anyone who needs support to access our university’s resources. Students can find help through CAPS, the university’s counseling and psychological services. Faculty and staff can access these services through the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office website.
With sincere hope for a healthy, peaceful and just tomorrow,