Dear National University System Community,
I hope this note finds you well. More than a week ago, I, like many of you, cried when I saw the senseless brutality and murder of George Floyd by four police officers. At that moment, our collective heart broke as we mourned Mr. Floyd and asked ourselves how this could happen. His death is horrific – and it is the latest in a series of tragedies involving law enforcement and Black Americans. Quite understandably, our Black neighbors, and all people of color, live in fear that they or their loved ones will be the next victims we mourn as a nation.
As a white male who has never experienced discrimination based on the color of my skin, and a person of privilege and in a position of power, I will not pretend to know what people of color are feeling right now or what discrimination and injustice feels like. I can only imagine the deep and distinct pain that must be endured by Black Americans every day. As an American who loves my country and has been privileged to live the American dream, I strongly acknowledge the injustice of the hardships and tragedy far too many of our Black citizens regularly endure. It is clear that systemic and institutional racism and biases – sometimes conscious and sometimes not – continue to pervade the structures of our society, impacting people based on skin color, sexual orientation, faith, and other factors.
- I recognize how traumatizing this time is, given the racial disparities in COVID-19-related deaths, and the growing number of needless deaths connected to the very institutions sworn to protect us.
- I recognize National University System (NUS) has an important role to play in this absolutely critical conversation, and I will be sending out a public message on behalf of NUS to ensure all of our constituents are aware that we stand against racism.
- I am committed to fostering an equitable, diverse, and inclusive culture at NUS.
Among the actions we should all take to stand against racism:
- Reach out to friends, family, colleagues, and fellow NUS community members who are Black and people of color to ask how you can best support them.
- For those of us who are not people of color, recognize that inherent bias runs deep, and we are each responsible for identifying and overcoming our inherent biases.
- Become educated by learning more about racism in American history and its legacy.
- Challenge bias and racism; if you see something, say something. Be a voice against racism, one conversation at a time—whether that is with your friends, your family members, your co-workers, or our NUS community.
As a System, we can and will do more:
- We are convening a council on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI).
- We have contracted with a consultant to help lead us through ensuring JEDI across the System;
- We have accelerated our plans to increase affordable access and student success across our entire student body, especially to our underserved communities;
- We are committed to having faculty, staff, administrators, and board members who represent our diverse student body;
- We will encourage volunteerism by all faculty, students, and staff to support those in need; and
- We will commit resources to promote JEDI across the System and beyond.
In closing, we must be true to our noble mission. As a post-secondary institution serving a diverse community, we are committed to helping educate individuals in underserved communities.
I encourage all of you to write me and let me know how you are doing. Let me know how we can do better. Let me know if you need help.
With much respect and a heavy heart,
Dr. Michael R. Cunningham
Chancellor, National University System