Sent to students, faculty and staff Sept. 24, 2020

To the UArts community:

As you are well aware, a Kentucky grand jury has failed to hold three officers accountable for the brutal death of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her own home and unarmed, earlier this year.

Like you, I am outraged. I am in continued disbelief. I am deeply troubled, and I can only begin to imagine the disappointment and grief these outcomes have on those in our community most affected by these injustices.

As though the pain of the atrocious and reckless disregard for the value of human life and specifically Black lives was not enough, there are so many ways in which the handling of this killing further demonstrates the imbalances within our justice system as well as our country.

The Taylor family, and all those hoping for justice to be done, have waited more than 6 months for a grand jury ruling with no indictments issued related to the multiple shots fired that struck and ultimately killed Breonna Taylor. This means no one and no entity will be charged and stand trial by jury for her death, speaking to a deplorable condition of our current process that is outrageous. I join Breonna’s family and supporters in the call for her case details to be posted publicly, and to trust the public with the true evidence.

This morning, professor and author Melanye Price relayed the stark, painful and wrong inequities of our current society for the New York Times aptly when she pointed out that in our nation, kneeling for the national anthem can cost a football player like Colin Kaepernick his career, but a police officer firing a deadly shot into an innocent young woman’s home late at night will face no consequences.

We must do better. Black Lives Matter.

We must, as individuals and as an institution, continue to do all we can to enact a more just and equitable country. Many of the policies and regulations that have continued to perpetuate racial inequity in our nation are determined, organized and governed by our elected officials. If we want to effect lasting change, we must exercise our precious democratic right to vote, and respect its sanctity, which is all too often being called into question at this time.

With the awesome responsibilities that we entrust to our elected officials in mind, and to enable and support our entire community to participate in our civic responsibility, Election Day during federal election years, as well as the State of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia general elections, will be observed as university holidays beginning this November.

In the near term, this means classes and all university-sponsored activities will be suspended on Tuesday, Nov. 3. This decision has been under consideration for some time with the original advocacy from Staff Council prior to the pandemic and was made today with the unanimous support of senior staff and all deans.

Voting is one of our most precious rights and fundamental to effecting change locally and nationally. As we say in our own mission statement, we are devoted to the art and science of creativity for a better world. A part of shaping a better, more just and more equitable world is exercising our individual right to vote.    

Please, go out and vote.

David Yager