A message to our community

The events happening this week in the Twin Cities, across the nation and here in Madison demonstrate the anger that members of our community feel over years of unequal treatment.  This anger demands meaningful action, particularly for those of us who are in positions of privilege.

I recognize that words condemning the tragic and inexcusable death of George Floyd are not enough. UWPD Chief Kristen Roman and her fellow Dane County chiefs are already engaged with the community to reduce trust gaps and improve safety through the Law Enforcement and Leaders of Color Collaboration. I appreciate the work that UWPD has done to ensure that its training and policies protect and serve our communities of color as effectively as they protect and serve other members of our community.

Our work extends beyond law enforcement to every facet of our institution. Although most of us cannot physically be on campus because of the coronavirus, we continue to work on creating a more inclusive and diverse community through the efforts of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement; admissions and recruitment; faculty/staff recruitment and retention; Student Affairs; Human Resources, our schools and colleges as well as within individual departments and units.

Each of us – particularly those of us who do not face the daily challenge of living amid inequity and injustice – must contribute to and lead the change that is needed. There are many ways to become more aware and involved. A list of resources is available on the DDEEA website.

Our campus has a long and proud tradition of helping bring about lasting change through peaceful protest. Thousands of people gathered peacefully at the Capitol Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, a small number chose to engage in destructive acts that attacked already-struggling local businesses. I condemn this violence; it drowns out the message that needs to be heard and is likely to create backlash and more anger on all sides, rather than promote the changes that are needed.

I urge anyone participating in protests to engage in peaceful activism that drives towards systemic change. Use the power and privilege of your education to speak up, reject hate, racism and violence and use respect to build our community. Please take care for your own safety and those around you in this time of COVID-19.

Finally, I encourage those who are anxious or angry about recent national events to connect with the campus resources that are here to support you. These include the Multicultural Student Center, DDEEA, University Health Services and the Employee Assistance Office.

To our Black and Brown students, staff and faculty, I want to say unambiguously: You belong here, you are important to this campus, your lives matter and I am committed to your safety.

This is a time of unprecedented challenge but I remain steadfast in the belief that together, we can move forward toward a more just future.