Responding to the trial verdict
On April 20, 2021, Executive Dean and Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter sent the below message to Arts and Sciences faculty, staff and students in response to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.
Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,
Relief and gratitude – those were my reactions to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. Yet while a measure of justice has been done, there is still a broader reality of racial inequality that remains to be addressed. Over the past many months, I have shared the exhaustion and deep disappointment others have expressed regarding the deaths of so many unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police officers. How many children must be left without their parents? How many parents must experience the unbelievable grief of losing a child? How many friends and neighbors must lose a loved one? As a parent of two young adults, I think about and feel deeply for parents of Black children who must move through their fears for their children’s safety when sending them out into the world.
As someone who believes in the American ideals of justice and fairness for all, I agree with those who think that it is time to renew our commitment to overcoming this nation’s 400-year history of racial injustice. The community I believe in and seek to be part of is one that treats everyone – from all backgrounds and identities – with respect, recognition and kindness. To do otherwise is to diminish all of us. To overcome the legacy of racial injustice, we must begin by understanding how we got here (for instance, by learning the histories of slavery, segregation and civil rights in the United States), why deep social inequities persist and how they operate, and what each of us can do both personally and collectively to overcome these legacies. Across the Arts and Sciences, we have the capacity to engage these difficult dialogues in robust ways as so many of our faculty, staff and students do every day. We will need to draw on these resources as we navigate the days and weeks ahead.
While we have much work ahead to move toward a more just and equitable society, right now we need to appreciate and process the moment that we are in. For those who are inclined to participate in peaceful demonstrations, I want to affirm our commitment to freedom of speech and the value of engaged citizenship. At the same time, I hope you will be mindful of public health and safety protocols as we continue to navigate the pandemic – by wearing a closely fitted mask, maintaining physical distancing protocols and avoiding large, dense crowds wherever possible. Please be safe.
Many of our students, peers and colleagues will be feeling intense emotions about the outcome of the Chauvin trial – relief, vindication, confusion or exhaustion. Find time to process these events together, by listening to, learning from and caring for one another. Looking ahead, over the weeks and months to come we will have opportunities to gather and discuss issues of race, justice and public safety in our country. We have the collective expertise in this college to contribute to those conversations.
Thank you for being a part of the caring community that is the College of Arts and Sciences.
Executive Dean and Vice Provost