In our message sent out yesterday we encouraged our students to speak out. And you did. Thank you. We are listening.
George Floyd died May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was killed by a police officer while others stood by without intervening. His name now joins a long list of other Black people killed by police officers.
In the days following his death we have seen nightly reports of international protest over this injustice, and while largely peaceful, some protest has been confrontational and violent. Protest has reflected the anger, frustration, and sadness of the Black community, and of their supporters.
In our university community we have also felt and heard this anger, frustration, and sadness. This has been led by Black students, and supported by allies.
What role does a university play in all this? Ideally, the university provides support in a difficult time, and convenes dialogue and action that leads to change. Through our public statement Nipissing University believes it has offered that support, and has pledged to act.
Let us be clear: George Floyd’s death is a catalyst for a discussion of Black lives, not racism generally. This discussion is framed by the Black Lives Matter movement, which we support. We believe in supporting Black students and wish to reassure them that our community is safe.
Now, as we channel our anger into speaking out and finding the right words to say, what thought have we given to how to make meaningful change? If every statement or tweet or posting lights a candle, what will we do when the light fades and we are left with our frustration that these problems persist? I am reminded of President Obama’s tears following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012, his wanting to stop the violence but realizing that the structures were not in place to allow change.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission completed its work a decade ago, and while it dealt with the Indigenous community it offers some lessons here. Truth is important, and like protest and speaking out it is cathartic. But the hard work comes in reconciliation, reaching out to others, allies and adversaries alike, and beginning a meaningful conversation.
We invite the Nipissing community to participate in community action in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Please click these links for more information:
To the university community, and especially to the Black students, staff, faculty, now is the time to speak out. After the truths have been told, find your allies. There are many of us. First imagine what reconciliation might look like. Then use your university as a place to convene discussion, debate, and lead others to act.
Dr. Mike DeGagné,
President & Vice Chancellor