The following message was sent this evening to the campus community:
Dear Wells Students, Faculty and Staff:
With great sadness America witnessed another tragic death of an unarmed Black man while in the custody of police, this time in Minneapolis, Minn. earlier this week. It is reprehensible that George Floyd’s life was ended by the callous disregard of four arresting officers who intentionally held him handcuffed on the ground and stopped him from breathing until he died. They did this despite Mr. Floyd calling out “I can’t breathe!” multiple times over several minutes, and despite knowing their actions were being filmed by onlookers.
This is one of many shocking examples of the racism that is embedded throughout the institutions of American society, and it is a wake-up call to all citizens. We must stand together to oppose injustice. We must hold fast against the rhetoric of hate. And we must treat all of our people with the dignity and humanity they deserve.
It is unfortunate that we cannot be together at this time. Normally, during the academic year, I would ask all of you to gather in Phipps Auditorium to share our grief and outrage at this tragic event, and to consider how we can redouble our commitment to promoting equity and inclusion in all aspects of our community at Wells College. We have made recent progress with the opening of the Hallway of Cultural Humility in Main Hall, just before spring break. When we return in the fall, I know this gathering space will be fully used as a place to share opinions, ideas and plans for action. I look forward to learning the suggestions that come forward.
We have revitalized the President’s Advisory Committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (PACDEI) and during the next academic year will be following up on that group’s recommendations for increased diversity programming, more professional development and diversity training for faculty and staff, and increased data collection and analysis.
Under the leadership of André Lynch, coordinator for student equity and inclusion initiatives, we will be working closely with our diversity clubs and organizations to make sure that each and every student of color feels safe at Wells. We will make sure that our marginalized students have appropriate outlets to voice concerns and pathways to work for structural change. We will create brave spaces which welcome all people to engage in difficult conversations around race. At Wells, we have the unique opportunity to nourish our rural bubble. Now, more than ever, is the time when Wells must lead by example. We will show the nation, and the world, what can happen when a college community wholeheartedly commits to racial justice.
We will work together on these efforts when we all return for the fall semester. In the meantime, I encourage all of us to challenge racism whenever and wherever you can. If someone makes a “joke,” or dismisses another’s concerns, or appropriates a culture, or says something insensitive, or otherwise contributes to racism, you must challenge it. Be steadfast in your commitment for change. Remember that people from marginalized groups don’t get “days off” — and neither should our community in the fight for justice.