Tuesday, April 20, 2021
Dear campus community,
I cannot begin to imagine the range of emotions our University community is experiencing today as we process and react to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Our thoughts remain first and foremost with George Floyd’s family and friends. While the verdict is an important step in holding police accountable and for dismantling state-sanctioned violence, no verdict can bring his family true peace nor can it restore what they have lost nor restore the years that Mr. Floyd had stolen from him.
Our thoughts also remain with those who continue to experience harassment and violence at the hands of police. During the few weeks of the trial alone, Daunte Wright’s and Adam Toledo’s names were added to the list of people tragically killed by police officers, and Caron Nazario, a dedicated member of the armed services, was pepper sprayed during a minor and unnecessary traffic stop. We must continue to demand justice and accountability, but our real goal is to prevent the harm before it occurs. Mr. Floyd’s family issued a similar plea today. While grateful for the verdict, they reminded us that there is much work to be done to “prevent unjustified killings of marginalized” BIPOC. This country should be a place where all feel valued and secure in the knowledge that they are safe. No one should feel anxious that when their loved ones are out of sight they are in danger.
As I have said before, universities must be sites of hard conversations. As the U.S. wrestles with systemic state-sanctioned violence in our municipalities, universities must engage in rigorous conversations about the shape of campus safety. SF State is uniquely poised to make a real difference here. We must continue to fill our University’s mission as the premier institution focused on social justice by both having this challenging conversation and modeling a student-centered campus safety program. Key steps have already been undertaken. Following more than a year of conversations with students and others, SF State is uniquely positioned to create a 21st century, student-centered model for campus safety which includes an advisory committee with student, faculty and staff representation, a civilian campus escort service and a chief of police with a background as a student services professional who also serves as an assistant vice president in Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. Building on this and making lasting change remains one of our greatest priorities for the upcoming year.
On a day like today, we would typically gather to share, to listen and to support one another. While the ongoing pandemic precludes that, we will find ways to come together virtually. The Division of Equity and Community Inclusion and other Student Affairs and Enrollment Management areas will be hosting virtual spaces and events (please keep an eye on your email and social media for details as they become available). I also encourage faculty to provide some time and space in their classes to allow students to discuss this event and other issues related to anti-racism and white supremacy. Our Center for Equity and Excellence in Teaching and Learning offers anti-racist pedagogy resources. The National Education Association also offers a number of relevant tools. And, as always, mental health support is available for students and employees alike.
Yet again, I am sadly compelled to say how hard things are just now. Many of our students and colleagues are suffering. I urge us all to show compassion and open our hearts and minds to one another. We can come together virtually to stand in solidarity to nurture a climate of shared values, greater trust and understanding and a society that is more just for all its people.
Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.