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Northwestern Strives to be an Instrument of Change

Dear members of the faculty and staff, 

Like many of you, I have watched the events of the past several days with anger and sadness, as our country’s deep divisions have again widely surfaced in ways that are devastating and yet, unfortunately, not surprising. The horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis — like the violence, borne out of systemic racism and inequalities, perpetrated against so many others in the past several months and throughout this nation’s history — leaves us struggling with feelings of immense grief, anger, fear and hopelessness. 

I, like many of you, am overwhelmed, upset, and searching for ways to respond to our current situation. As President Schapiro said on Friday, our community grieves for the many ways racism and hatred manifest themselves in our society. I am keenly aware that the impacts of these terrible forces are felt even more strongly among our black and brown communities. Still, as Vice President of Student Affairs Julie Payne-Kirchmeier said in a letter to students today, I am inspired by the many ways the Northwestern community — staff, faculty, and students — have come together individually and collectively at this time, as they have in response to countless other acts of bigotry, large and small, videotaped and otherwise unseen, in our nation and in our local and Northwestern communities. 

I know many of you feel an urgent need to make your voices heard and that many in our community are already actively engaging in protests to effect change. Although the Northwestern community remains physically distanced by the continued efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, let me assure you, you are not alone. I stand with you in the fight to turn the tide of hate and discrimination.

Northwestern’s commitment to equity in all forms is unwavering. I know that we have work to do before this commitment is fully realized, but I assure you that we will not stop working toward this goal.

Please know there are myriad University resources to assist you, including the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which provides free short-term counseling to faculty and staff; the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion (OIDI), which offers resources for wellness, equity, and issues of access; and Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL), which hosts individual pastoral care appointments and programs to help.

It is difficult to put into words just how challenging this quarter has been for so many at Northwestern. The disruption, stress, fear, and economic and physical hardship caused by the pandemic has only magnified the fragility many of us are feeling. Please support each other. I also urge all who work with students to reach out to them to offer help and support, and to remain flexible and caring as we approach the close of Spring Quarter.

Northwestern is, foundationally, an instrument for change, a place where academic freedom and debate fuel scholarship designed to improve our world. In this moment, I am grateful for you and I am hopeful that these events and your efforts through your work, scholarship and teaching, will be the impetus for real reform to systems that have, throughout history, treated people of color as unequal. As James Baldwin said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly with your thoughts, your concerns, your ideas, or for any other reason. Our path to change can only be achieved through continued dialogue.