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Email from Janine Davidson, Ph.D., MSU Denver president
June 3, 2020
Dear MSU Denver community members,
The tragic death of George Floyd and the tumultuous events that have unfolded over the past week are a heartbreaking reminder of the deep-rooted systemic racism and increasing political polarization in our country. I have struggled to find words to express my own grief and anger as my heart aches for the Floyd, Taylor, Arbery, McAtee and Scurlock families, and for all those who may have seen a reflection of their own life experience in that traumatic video footage. As a white woman, I have not personally had to endure nor fear the violent injustices at the root of this tragedy. But as the president of one of the largest and most diverse universities in Colorado, I am seized by this moment and am committed to help channel this collective and justifiable anger into meaningful anti-racist change.
I cannot help but think about the experiences of our black students, faculty and staff, in particular, and the perpetual injustices and indignities many of them have endured simply because of the color of their skin. To our black students, faculty and staff, I want you to know that the entire Roadrunner family stands with you against racial injustice and violence. MSU Denver is a diverse community that is passionately committed to social justice. Together, we must work to model the compassionate and inclusive society we can envision. This requires respectful and meaningful dialogue that includes the interrogation of our own deep-seated biases. And that is only the beginning.
As former President Barack Obama reminded us, “… if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.” In short, we must engage in the actual mechanics of our democracy: debate, agenda-setting and voting.
Universities have long been places for communities to convene, study, discuss and act on the most urgent challenges of our day. That solutions-oriented dialogue has led and can lead to healing and social change.
In that spirit, I am committing our University to engage in the anti-racism work necessary to create change in our community. I have asked Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Michael Benitez, Ph.D., to collaborate with other leaders across the University to find ways to channel our collective energies, frustrations and talents into constructive social and political change. To start, we will create more meaningful and educational spaces this summer and beyond for our community to acknowledge, process and work through the emotions affecting so many of us. Also, the president of our Faculty Senate, Katia Campbell, Ph.D., along with the Communication Studies Department and Dean of Students Office will host a Dialogues Across Difference series. She and her colleagues will gather a panel of faculty and staff to discuss issues of racism and violence with a focus on what we can do at MSU Denver.
I’ve spoken with so many people over the last few days – from University presidents to first-year students to my own family and friends – and while there is much justifiable anger, tension and fear, there is also a belief that our country is in the midst of an awakening. This can be the moment that propels us to social change. I believe we can make real and substantive progress if we listen to one another, acknowledge the part we each play in maintaining systems of oppression, and make an honest commitment to take action toward a more equitable and just society.
Janine Davidson, Ph.D.