Published April 16, 2021
Dear university community:
Over the past several weeks, the public has turned its attention to the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd. Now, with the prosecution and defense having rested, the concluding phase of the trial is set to begin.
Although we could have anticipated that these proceedings would prove emotionally draining for anyone following them, the deeply disturbing evidence and wrenching testimony have borne a heavier psychological toll on many of our Black students, colleagues, peers, friends and neighbors. Against the backdrop of a fervent racial justice reckoning, demonstrations over police brutality against Black and Brown Americans, a pandemic that has magnified social injustice, and oppression that has persisted from our country’s founding, I understand that some of you may be feeling as traumatized in the retelling of this terrible episode as when you first learned of it.
When I talk to our students, I hear anxiety, sadness and raw frustration over a system that continues to allow this violence to happen—most recently resulting in the heartbreaking deaths of Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright. When I meet with our faculty and staff, they echo the same sense of dismay over the power structures that perpetuate racism and brutality. What you tell me—directly and indirectly—is that you are demanding change. I hear the urgency in your voice, and I share your insistence that action is overdue.
As a scholarly community, we seek to create change through our research, our education and our engagement with the communities we serve. We all recognize that it will take great effort, innovation, compassion and ingenuity if we are to topple systemic racism and disrupt this cycle of senseless tragedy, and we embrace the challenge. Not for self-congratulatory purposes. Not because we view ourselves as uniquely positioned to answer this call. We do it because it is unequivocally the right thing to do.
I am constantly considering how our university community can most effectively serve as an agent of change. As I write to you, I acknowledge that there is so much to be done. Truly, our work is far from over. But we are making progress, and I am proud of the action we have taken thus far. It shows me that, when we approach this task in solidarity, with a mandate to uproot discrimination and intolerance, we can help cultivate, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “a society at peace with itself—a society that can live with its conscience.”
I hope our ongoing endeavors to achieve social justice instill in you a sense of hope that we are moving toward a more equitable and inclusive society. I also hope our work provides you with a measure of optimism for a brighter, more just future—for UB, and for our world.
If you are in need of emotional support at this time, if you would like to join in a discussion about the trial, or if you are seeking ways to help your students process this consequential moment, we have resources for everyone in our UB community.
Allow me to emphasize that we are a community that is stronger by virtue of our diverse viewpoints, backgrounds and identities. Although not all of us carry the trauma of systemic racism, it is my greatest wish that we stand together in the effort to overcome it. This commitment is core to our identity as a scholarly community. It is etched into our university’s mission. We have no intention, or desire, to pay lip service to the ideals of social justice. Throughout UB’s 175-year history, we have always channeled our ideas into action in service of the greater good.
That is our unifying constant. And that will be the case long after the verdict is read in the trial of Derek Chauvin—indeed, for as long as it takes.
Satish K. Tripathi