In June, I wrote to you in response to the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd and the demonstrations that followed across the nation. Today, we as a nation are facing similar societal turbulence as we grieve the life of Breonna Taylor and the belief of many of us that justice has not been properly served.
The tragic events that continue to occur throughout our country remind us that as a society we have much more work to do to end systemic racism. As a university, we must ask how we can support our students, faculty, staff and alumni of color and address systemic racism within our own community.
As a white male, I realize that I will never truly understand the fear, pain and anger that comes from a lifetime of experiencing racism. But, as your University President I pledge to stand with you in this fight against racial injustice and ask you each to hold me and the university accountable for both our statements and our actions.
In my letter to you all this summer, I stated that Cumberland would work throughout the fall semester, and beyond, to create an environment where our campus community can openly address these complex issues of racial injustice and each voice can be heard. With the help of many students, faculty and staff, we have worked to create opportunities that prioritize diversity and inclusion on our campus. To that end:
- Cumberland has hired Ms. Rebekah Sookdeo for the position of Diversity and Inclusion Director. She will be working with the newly appointed Diversity Council and collaborating with various university offices to promote diversity and inclusion initiatives across campus.
- Cumberland student-athletes organized the Anti-Racial Movement (ARM). They planned and conducted a march for justice where over 100 students, faculty and staff marched together on Sept. 24.
- Cumberland announced an “It’s Time to Rise Together” series of events, which featured Freedom Rider and Civil Rights Activist Dr. Rip Patton. The series continued with a conversation celebrating Native and Indigenous voices, and a 3rd event is planned to celebrate Hispanic voices on a date TBD later this Fall.
I’m grateful for each of you who are working to make our campus a place where all people feel safe, supported, welcomed, accepted and embraced. This is only the beginning of our conscious and intentional efforts to eradicate racism in our community, and each of your voices and contributions are critical in this process.
One of our core values is to “respect and care for others.” I ask each of you to hold our CU family accountable for upholding that value in all respects. Please know that you can always reach out to me, or our new Diversity and Inclusion Director Rebekah Sookdeo, with any comments, questions, concerns or ideas. It’s time for us to rise together.
With gratitude –