President David Yager Responds to Racial Violence (June 2, 2020)

June 2, 2020

Dear students, faculty and staff,

It is with continued sadness I write to you this afternoon - on the eighth day of protest across the country in direct response to the unjust death of George Floyd and systemic racism that continues to plague our nation. As I said in my message on Friday, May 29, there is nothing normal or acceptable 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 the enormity of the situation continues to grow, we all must reflect on our thoughts and behavior.

Over the past week, our own students, faculty and staff have joined demonstrations, donated to justice efforts, and participated in the clean-up efforts across the City of Philadelphia and beyond. The University stands with those who are angered and outraged by the current deplorable circumstances and underlying inequities that inspire them. I particularly stand with and support our Black students, faculty and staff. Though I may not be capable of knowing the depths of pain, grief and sadness that some among us are feeling, my heart goes out to each of you.

Now is the time that we must accelerate the initiatives and actions that will enact lasting change, both at UArts and beyond. We must continue to elevate the position of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at UArts – reflect on, evaluate and change how we teach, learn, engage, and lead. We must prioritize and create meaningful institutional dialogue. And to those within our community like myself who are not Black or brown – we have steep work ahead. We must examine and consider what true allyship means and what actions it requires. The work that will bring lasting and meaningful change must be prioritized by us today, tomorrow and every day after.  

Members of our faculty and staff are already hard at work to accelerate our plans. In the immediate future, the Campus Life team is organizing an event for students on this Thursday, and the DEI Taskforce together with my office is planning another Open Conversations event for later this summer. We will also schedule a DEI Town Hall for early next semester to update our community on the work that is underway university-wide to bring about sustainable change.

With deep sadness,