President David Yager’s Response to Events in Minnesota (May 29, 2020)

May 29, 2020

Message in response to events in Minnesota from President David Yager to the UArts community

Read President Yager’s June 2 message. 

May 29, 2020

Dear students, faculty and staff,

I write to you again this afternoon, but this time with great sadness and grief as we continue to follow and reflect on the horrific event of George Floyd dying face down on the street under the knee of a police officer in Minnesota.

The injustice and inequity that continues to be alive within our society and all too frequently manifests through violent and unjust actions, disproportionately impacting communities of color, demands our attention, our reflection, and our commitment to be better.

Over the past several weeks, we have worked tirelessly to aim for and develop plans for a "new normal" at UArts as the pandemic has upended virtually every aspect of our lives. Yet there is nothing normal about the continued atrocities and countless lives that continue to be lost and afflicted by racism, bigotry and hatred that exists within our society. As Barack Obama recently stated: "We have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly 'normal' — whether it's while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park."

My heart swells for all Americans, but most of all for the black community and students, faculty and staff of color here at UArts. We want you to know that the situation is not OK, and is not being ignored.

Earlier today I described the importance and height of the work ahead of us as a community of creatives and artists as we look to the future. Now more than ever, I believe this - it is our responsibility no matter our position - to consider what action we might take individually or collectively against oppression, especially of those different from ourselves. We must commit not just today, but for everyday, to learn from and listen to others. To move closer towards that which is unfamiliar, set aside our privileges and assumptions, and listen.

As artists and creatives, your call to action is even greater; through your creative works, collaborations, performances and stories you must illuminate the way for all of our futures. We only have to look to Keedron Bryant to witness the impact one artist - who happens to only be 12 years old - can have.

To our students, faculty and staff, we want you to know that University of the Arts is committed to the values of inclusion and diversity, and we understand that institutions of higher education have a critical obligation to speak out against, and work to actively dismantle, systemic racism and acts of violence against people of color. As I write this message, I also hope that other leaders of higher education institutions will step forward to join me. As universities and colleges, we must take collective action to enact lasting change against the oppression we continue to see inflicted in the world today. We may not yet have the answers, but I challenge all of our higher education institutions to work together and find them.

Finally, we encourage our community members to seek support during this time from the Counseling Center (for students) and through the Employee Assistance Program (for faculty and staff).

With deep sadness,

David Yager