1. We need to bring about change

    May 29, 2020

    I have watched and read in horror reports of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Many members of the University of Michigan community have reached out to me to express their heartache and anger that another unarmed African American has been killed by police, who have violated their duty to protect and serve.

    I want to thank those of you who have shared your personal feelings on this tragedy. I know that your pain is very real and profound. Many members of our community are experiencing this tragedy in ways that are inseparable from their race and ethnicity – and in ways that I will never be able to fully and personally realize. For instance, our Chief Diversity Officer Robert Sellers has very poignantly written about his experiences today.

    I condemn the actions that caused the tragic deaths of George Floyd, of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. There are far, far too many more examples of racism and violence against people of color from all across our nation, including in our surrounding community.

    The reality and scope of this problem are pervasive. A 2018 study whose authors included U-M Institute for Social Research fellow Michael Esposito found that “the risk of being killed by police, relative to White men, is between 3.2 and 3.5 times higher for Black men.” Thanks to U-M Political Science Prof. Christian Davenport, we know that the exercising of fundamental rights is treated differently, as “African American protest events are more likely to draw police presence, even when we control for the measures of behavioral threat.”

    At U-M, we must use our power to address major societal problems – especially those that diminish our society so tragically. This is clear in our mission.

    Our mission is also why our work to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion must continue. The University of Michigan has a critical role to play and obligation to lead the kind of changes in our society that we all want to see. I know that our Division of Public Safety and Security is committed to being a continuing partner in this ongoing work. DEI will continue as a major focus of the institution throughout my presidency, beyond our initial five-year Strategic Plan. We must utilize our scholarship, the education and the engagement of our talented faculty, students, and staff to bring about change not only within the university, but also in our broader society. Our collective future depends on it.

    During this difficult time, I urge anyone who needs support to access our university’s resources.

    Students on all three campuses can receive support through CAPS, the university’s counseling and psychological services. All faculty and staff in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint can access services through the Faculty and Staff Counseling and Consultation Office. Michigan Medicine faculty and staff can access resources through Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience.