Statements on Racism and Injustice


  • January 30, 2023 - Death of Tyre Nichols

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    To the EMU community:

    Like you, we are outraged and saddened by the tragic events leading to Tyre Nichols's death. He was a young, talented individual with a promising future ahead of him. The actions of the police officers involved were reckless and have no place in our society that’s still grappling with the horrific deaths of Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, among others.

    This horrific incident comes on the heels of the mass shooting involving Asian and Pacific Islander communities. We still haven’t had a chance to wrap our heads around these vicious hate crimes and share the grief of those who lost their loved ones.

    We recognize our students, faculty and staff may be struggling to process the recent violent acts, video and the murder of Mr. Nichols. As a response to these events, the Chief Diversity Office will host a Community Wellness and Self-Care when Dealing with Traumatic News Events discussion from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6, and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8,  in the Intersection room, across from Service EMU, in the Student Center.

    As our community mourns, your emotional well-being is of the utmost importance. As a reminder, we have resources to help our campus community cope with these issues plaguing our society, contact CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) for additional support.

    Now is the time to lean on one another in sorrow but also to hope for a more lawful and fair future. Let us rely on our shared commitment to a safe, caring, and inclusive community.

    Doris Fields, Ph.D.,
    Interim Chief Diversity Officer
    James Smith, Ph.D.,

    Statement from EMU Executive Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police, Matthew Lige:

    The deadly assault of Tyre Nichols at the hands of five Memphis police officers is appalling. The actions of the police officers are inexcusable and criminal in nature.

    Injustices anywhere can trigger those who have experienced or witnessed these acts in their communities. EMU commits itself to welcoming people from all cultures, experiences and backgrounds. No one feels they belong someplace if they cannot feel safe to walk the streets and sidewalks and be treated like a valued human being.

    I want to reassure the EMU community that the EMU Department of Public Safety (DPS) does not condone this behavior and will not tolerate misconduct by any member of DPS.

    EMU DPS continues to prioritize fair and equitable policing practices, on-going use-of-force training in the area of de-escalation, duty to intervene policies and procedures, and mental health response training through collaboration with the office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and the Washtenaw County Community Mental Health crisis response team.

    EMU DPS regularly trains our officers and reviews our policies and procedures to ensure unbiased enforcement of the law and the University's Code of Community Responsibility, and we work closely with the University's Public Safety Oversight Committee (PSOC) to thoroughly review any allegation of misconduct.

    Police officers must be held to a high ethical standard and we cannot fail our communities where we observe injustice. The actions at the hands of law enforcement that we witnessed in Memphis, and too many other communities across this country, cannot continue.

    Finally, I want to express my personal condolences to the family of Mr. Nichols.

    Chief Matthew Lige, Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety


  • April 25, 2022 - Statement from Dr. Doris J. Fields, Ph.D., Interim Chief Diversity Officer on racist images on the Student Speech Wall

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    I write to you today to address racist comments and images recently painted on EMU Student Government’s Student Speech Wall.

    Racist images on the Student Speech Wall

    Late last week, monkey images and racist phrases were spray painted on the Student Speech Wall covering messages previously posted there by African American fraternities and sororities. The racist images and phases were also shared on the EMU Engage app. Pictures of monkeys and/or statements linking monkeys to African Americans have long been considered racist caricatures.

    Eastern Michigan University condemns these hateful images and statements. Racist rhetoric and actions are completely counter to the mission, values, and welcoming environment of our campus. Racist stereotypes, phrases, jokes, or other acts of racial insensitivity, discrimination, or prejudice on our campus are not acceptable.

    I understand and share the range of emotions -- anger, frustration, disappointment, fear, sadness -- that our African American students, faculty and staff are experiencing at this moment. It is difficult to feel you belong to or are a valued member of a culture when you are devalued by those around you. We must do better. Our campus community must ensure that every student has an opportunity for a quality education. We each deserve an environment where we can thrive free from discrimination, racism, and prejudice.

    Ongoing investigation

    I have been in close contact with President Smith, Police Chief Matthew Lige, and other University leaders regarding this matter. We are working collectively to investigate this matter, and we share the outrage of the campus community. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) investigation is still ongoing. When that investigation is complete, DPS will share its report with the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office, which has the final determination about whether to pursue criminal charges. Together, we will continue to update the campus community as more facts emerge.

    The role of the First Amendment

    An important component of the criminal investigation of these incidents is the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which gives individuals the broad right to express their views, including upsetting or reprehensible ones, largely without restriction. The Student Speech Wall was designed to foster open expression and dialogue among EMU students. It is managed by EMU Student Government, and the purpose of the space is as follows:

    “Eastern Michigan University students are encouraged to paint these spaces to communicate upcoming events and other public messages. Although students have broad leeway to write messages on the Student Speech Space, Student Government urges all writers to adhere closely to Eastern Michigan University’s Core Values, namely Excellence, Respect, Inclusiveness, Responsibility, and Integrity. We encourage messages that are positive and informative.”

    Clearly, racist speech painted on the wall does not adhere to these guidelines.

    Unfortunately, the First Amendment may often be used by individuals to avoid accountability for hateful statements and expressions. Such conduct may not be illegal because it is protected by the First Amendment. It is, however, inconsistent with EMU’s mission and values, and we condemn it.

    The University encourages students who write on the Student Speech Space (including the wall and nearby kiosks) to communicate information about upcoming events and “messages that are positive and informative.” If you plan to paint the wall, we ask that you carefully consider what outcome you hope to achieve with your statements and message. How will others hear, interpret, and be impacted by them?

    Campus communication brings with it the responsibility to respect peers. Racist messages such as those painted last week exclude and convey to some that they may not be welcome on our campus. They create a culture of fear, division, and hate. People succeed in cultures that support, include, and foster a sense of safety and belonging. Each of us is responsible for the energy we bring to creating a community that welcomes and fosters the success of people from all backgrounds and experiences.

    Next steps

    EMU strives to build bridges and an inclusive environment across campus. We are committed to eliminating barriers and improving race relations, and making conscious efforts in building an educational institution that is accepting of all races, cultures, religions, nationalities, gender identities, and sexual orientations. Understanding that inclusion is an act and process of continuous improvement and an acceptance of differences, the University will demonstrate our commitment to inclusion by offering the following initiatives:

    • The University’s Interim Chief Diversity Officer is offering open DEI Office Hours throughout the Summer on Wednesdays from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. (101C Boone) beginning April 27 through the week of August 31. Walk-in and scheduled Zoom office hours are available for students, faculty, and staff who would like to share their thoughts on the situation and other DEI concerns across the University. (Zoom appointments must be scheduled prior to the meeting by emailing [email protected].)

    • We are creating a feedback process that will be open to students, faculty, and staff to make suggestions on the development of a “Student Diversity Training Workshop”. This DEI initiative will be created by students for students, be hosted by the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, and focus on creating the culture we aspire to have on our campus.
    • EMU students will also have the opportunity to participate in the DEI Listening Tour in September 2022 to discuss DEI projects/programs/initiatives, and DEI concerns. Dates and times will be announced as fall semester approaches. If you are interested in participating in any of these initiatives, please contact me at [email protected].

    Finally, we can achieve a truly inclusive campus community only if every member of our community is actively participating in the change process. I hope that you will join me in our efforts to create a more inclusive learning environment for students, faculty, and staff -- where everyone can thrive academically, feel safe, and receive a quality education.

    Thank you,
    Dr. Fields

    Dr. Doris J. Fields, Ph.D.
    Interim Chief Diversity Officer


  • April 20, 2021 - Statement from President Smith on Derek Chauvin found guilty

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    These past several weeks the world has focused on the trial of Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis Police Officer, now found guilty in the murder of George Floyd. Although this verdict cannot bring back Mr. Floyd, I am hopeful it is a critical step toward creating a society where Black Lives Matter.

    Although the verdict against Derek Chauvin is a step in moving us forward, the reality is we have much work to do across all of our structures, organizations, and institutions to eradicate systemic racial inequities and injustices. Holding Derek Chauvin accountable will not eradicate the racism woven throughout the fabric of our society. The murder of George Floyd, and more recently the killings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, and countless other Black and Brown people, is the tip of the iceberg. This is not only a problem within policing and our criminal justice system. We see it in the attack on voting rights, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, inequities throughout our education system, and all levels of society. 

    We must own that racism, hate, and injustice are present in our campus environment as well. I hear the frustration, anger, and demand for change. I hear your pain and see the daily struggles. You are right when you say words only go so far and action is needed. We can and must do better. As a University. As a nation. As individuals and communities. 

    Eastern Michigan University is working on several initiatives involving students and employees that move from words to action. They provide broader support for diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice efforts on campus. Initial actions are designed to: 

    1. Improve employee awareness and training about unconscious bias and systemic factors that contribute to racism, including a training and education initiative that begins on Friday led by Human Resources, as well as the ongoing work of the Faculty Senate Task Force on Campus Climate, Race and Diversity Issues for faculty and lecturers;

    2. Reduce the equity gap in student retention and graduation rates among racial and ethnic groups through curricular, co-curricular, and student support efforts; 

    3. Enhance our engagement with the reinvigorated Police Oversight Committee; and  

    4. Institute programming that further centers our core values of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice into all aspects of the campus experience.

    The safety and well being of our campus community is of the utmost importance. If you are in need of support at this time, I encourage you to reach out to Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). On weekdays, students can make an appointment to talk to a counselor by calling 734.487.1118 during business hours or emailing [email protected]. Students may also access CAPS’ after-hours phone support in the evenings and weekends by calling that same number.  

    For 172 years, the diverse voices and experiences of Eastern Michigan University have been our defining strengths. Each of us must continue to work together to ensure diversity, infuse equity and inclusion, and stand for justice in all facets of our University community.

  • March 23, 2021 – Faculty Senate Response to Rise in Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans

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    The increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic has profoundly troubled this nation, the state of Michigan and our university. The most recent attack against Asian women underscores the significance of our obligation to serve as a beacon and active voice for our fellow Americans who are vulnerable to unfounded racist, misogynistic and xenophobic attacks. The Eastern Michigan University (EMU) Faculty Senate condemns all acts of hatred, bigotry, and discrimination against groups and individuals. Moreover, we repudiate all claims that such acts are isolated and that thereby refuse to acknowledge the conditions that imperil members of minorities in this country. Once again it is time to speak truth to power and we wholeheartedly stand with those of you who are grieving and frightened.

    The current and historical injustices that seek to harm and divide us only strengthens our resolve to stand together. We will continue to stand in unison with the community, on our campus and in our classrooms, ensuring the rights and liberties of all citizens are respected and protected. Remember, this is not just about us; it is about the generations that will follow.

    Dr. King reminded us that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can drive out darkness.” This is our opportunity to show our community that EMU can be the light that is needed during these dark days.  We want you to know that: we know that you are struggling, we see and hear your cries, we feel your pain and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to be there for you all. Let’s come together as an EMU family and lean on one another as we face these difficult times together.

  • March 18, 2021 – Statement from President James Smith in Response to Rise in Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans

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    Yesterday's murders of eight people in Atlanta, six of them Asian women, are a horrific reminder of the racism faced by Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans (APIDA) and Asian individuals and communities. While the motive of the suspect remains under investigation, it is well documented that in the last year, coinciding with the pandemic, there has been a dramatic increase in hate incidents against APIDA that range from verbal harassment and name-calling to shunning and physical acts of violence. This kind of hate runs counter to everything the Eastern Michigan University community stands for. We are committed to addressing all forms of hate and harassment and I encourage you to support our APIDA and Asian community members at this time. Let them know you care. Please remind others that EMU is a welcoming place for people of every background, ethnicity, race, culture and creed.

    James Smith, Ph.D.


  • October 30, 2020 - Statement from the College of Health & Human Services

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    The College of Health and Human Services recognizes that bias, systemic racism, and discrimination exists. We unequivocally denounce these in all forms. We believe in and embrace diversity, inclusion, and humanism. With collective resolve, the College of Health and Human Services is committed to disrupting and dismantling systems of injustice and oppression.

  • June 24, 2020 - Statement from School of Social Work

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    The EMU School of Social Work continues to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement as we mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and the numerous other Black lives that have been taken at the hands of police. We recognize the insidious roles systemic and institutional racism and White Supremacy have played and continue to play in the lives of persons who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The injustices we are witnessing provide moments to act, stand firm and speak loudly and clearly – that hate and discrimination in any form are not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

    We recommit as individuals and as a School to actively dismantle systemic and institutional racism and, to restructure our community, state, and country to reflect inclusivity, diversity, and equity. We stand behind our School’s mission as we fight against discrimination of any kind. We are committed to the empowerment of oppressed individuals, families and communities and believe that social workers can impact change through direct service, the creation of equitable social welfare policies and laws, and community-based partnerships. Together, we will develop action steps with our students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners to ensure that we are advancing anti-racist conversation and action in the classroom, throughout our University and within our local communities.

  • June 10, 2020 - Statement from Faculty Senate

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    The brutal slayings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Eric Garner in New York as well as countless other victims whose names have been replaced with hashtags and memes has profoundly troubled this nation, the state of Michigan and our university. The Eastern Michigan University (EMU) Faculty Senate condemns and repudiates all acts of hatred, bigotry, and discrimination against groups and individuals. The time to speak truth to power has arisen and we wholeheartedly stand with those of you who are currently mourning for our country.

    The current and historical injustices that seek to harm and divide us only strengthens our resolve to stand together. We will continue to stand in unison with the community, on our campus and in our classrooms, ensuring the rights and liberties of all citizens are respected and protected. Remember, this is not just about us; it is about the generations that will follow.

    Dr. King reminded us that, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can drive out darkness.” This is our opportunity to show our community that EMU can be the light that is needed during these dark days. We want you to know that: we know that you are struggling, we see and hear your cries, we feel your pain and we are committed to doing whatever it takes to be there for you all. Let’s come together as an EMU family and lean on one another as we face these difficult times together.

  • June 3, 2020 - Statement from Provost Rhonda Longworth

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    I am profoundly sad and angry over the series of brutal racial incidents that have unfolded nationally in recent weeks. We are called in times like these to be allies, supporters and defenders of Black students, faculty, staff and citizens who face ongoing discrimination individually, systemically and institutionally. Eastern Michigan University’s mission as a public institution of higher education and learning is grounded in values of inclusion, excellence and respect for all individuals. Injustice, inequity and discrimination are not welcome on our campus. Black Lives Matter here.

    To say that means we also must acknowledge that we haven’t done enough to fully embody those commitments and values across all we do. We must seek additional and innovative ways to welcome and include people from differing backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints to this community. And, we must expand and enhance ways we educate about patterns of racism and other forms of discrimination in our society and act to address them. In our division, we will start with the work of our President’s Commission, our Faculty Senate’s Task Force on Campus Climate, Race and Diversity, the ongoing efforts of staff in the Center of Race and Ethnicity and throughout the Office of Diversity and Inclusion along with our college and departmental efforts, as well as our outstanding faculty and staff experts across campus. Much capacity exists for us to draw on, much has been done- we simply have more to do.

    We must continue our efforts to be a community that embraces difference, supports everyone and helps all to thrive. Inclusive communities examine themselves and their practices with intention. We must take this moment to ask ourselves important questions about everything we do and every process we have in place. Are we structured in a way that promotes inclusive excellence? Do we recruit, admit, educate and assess students in ways that respect and value a range of experiences, competencies and talents? Are we staffed in a way that demonstrates our goals? Do we recruit and hire employees through processes and criteria that expand what it means to be “qualified” and “best”? Are we leaders and advocates around instructional practices and methodologies that speak to people from the full spectrum of experience? Do we tenure and promote in ways that advance inclusion - respecting and “counting” a wider range of research methodologies, conference and performance venues, journals, and more? Are we surveying and measuring our conditions and progress in ways that can support and advance accountability? There are so many areas where we can re-energize, act and lead from all parts of the institution. Let’s take on these tasks with the passion, energy and focus they deserve in the coming days, weeks and months.

  • June 2, 2020 - Statement from Police Chief Bob Heighes

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    It is with a heavy heart that I address you all today. Like so many in our community and the nation, after watching the video of George Floyd’s death, I am deeply saddened and disturbed. We are again seeing another senseless death of a Black man at the hands of law enforcement. Four officers, one unarmed handcuffed black man, on the ground, and the response from one officer was to kneel on Mr. Floyd’s neck to the point that he suffocates. The response of the other officers on the scene was to stand by and allow it to happen, even stopping those citizens that tried to speak up. These officers’ actions are indefensible.

    Unfortunately, we know that this is not the only incident of police brutality targeting Black men and women We know that much of the nation’s trust in law enforcement is understandably shaken or even gone. Please know that we too are angry. We too are frustrated. We too are hurting and we too will not defend these officers’ actions. We stand with the community against racism and police brutality, and we stand for police accountability.

    We know we have a moral and legal duty in law enforcement to treat all individuals, whether they are a complainant, victim, witness, suspect, or defendant, with dignity and respect. We are not above the law and all of us are accountable for our actions.

    Our department is dedicated to breaking down barriers between police and the students we serve, and we will continue to work on developing relationships with our students and campus community to learn how we can improve safety on campus. We will not tolerate anything less than a safe and inclusive campus for people of all backgrounds.

    The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis is tragic, and all incidents of police brutality need to end. This incident renews our commitment to act professionally in all situations, and to continue participation in effective training for all of our personnel. Our main objective is and always will be keeping Eastern Michigan University students, faculty, and staff safe.

  • June 2, 2020 - Statement from Mike Sayler, Dean, College of Education

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    It is with great sorrow that once more we are faced with the tragic and unjustified deaths of black men and women: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery to name three recent cases everyone knows about. The continued actions of individuals who do not respect the lives of others especially our Black brothers and sisters has to end. Such actions are intolerable. In our college and at this university we have an unshakable belief in the dignity and sacredness of every person and of their inalienable rights as human beings and Americans. Although not the majority, there are unfortunately still too many men, women, and children in our country who have not learned or who refuse to believe this.

    Being in a college of education allows our faculty and students to become one the of best long-term solutions to making our cities, rural areas, and country knowledgeable and respectful of everyone, with no exceptions. We know that everyone comes through schools and therein lies our opportunities to affect change. Schools cannot do everything, but they play one important part in who we are and what we become as a nation.

    For our part in the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University we will continue our deep efforts at supporting Black, Brown, and Native students wanting to become teachers, leaders in K-12 and higher education, counselors, and speech pathologists. We pledge ourselves to work with all of our undergraduate and graduate students to understand racism and how to address it personally, specifically, and professionally. As a faculty we pledge ourselves to becoming the best educators we can be even if that means re-evaluating some of the ways or things we teach. Education can be a strong catalyst in changing things for the better if we embrace change and refinement within ourselves first and then among those we teach.

  • June 2, 2020 - Statement from the Department of Communication, Media & Theatre Arts

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    The School of Communication, Media & Theatre Arts faculty and staff are saddened and outraged by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the widespread racism that has led to so many other instances like them. We decry the long history of systematic oppression, stigmatizing, and stereotyping of people of color in the United States that has led to a system of oppression, discrimination, and violence. Racism, violence, and bigotry have no place in our home.

    We proclaim our support for our students, colleagues, community partners of color and the entire African American community as well as other minority communities whose members have been systematically oppressed. We reaffirm our commitment to fostering an inclusive environment, and promoting social justice. As performers, artists, journalists, media producers, and communicators, we believe in coming together to create a world that fosters empathy, promotes openness, speaks to the truth and encourages understanding through listening and telling people’s stories.

  • June 2, 2020 - Statement from Head Football Coach Chris Creighton and members of the coaching staff and team

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    Watch the video message from EMU football.

  • May 30, 2020 - Statement from Student Body President Ethan Smith and Vice President Hajer Abuzir

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    To the EMU Student Body,

    On May 25th, George Floyd was brutally murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Officer Derek Chauvin killed Mr. Floyd by ruthlessly pressing his knee into his neck for more than eight minutes while he complained of being unable to breath. The next day, a black woman named Sha’Teina Anahita Lin Grady El was punched by a police officer multiple times while being arrested outside her daughter’s home here in Washtenaw County. The officer was investigating a crime that did not involve her.

    These acts of violence, egregious as they are, represent only two examples of police crimes against the black community that have been caught on tape. How many more black men have been killed behind the blue wall of silence? How many more black women assaulted? How many times have the police lied when there were no cameras, no witnesses?

    Racism is not over. We do not live in a “post-racial” society. Racism has killed Black Americans since the beginning of the American story, and the murder of George Floyd is a reminder that violence against black communities continues to exist and must be actively resisted. EMU Student Government calls upon all students to condemn racism and police brutality wherever they see it.

    It is not the responsibility of the Black community to demand what they are already entitled: respect, decency, and a right to life. But far too often, that burden has fallen to our Black brothers and sisters. While white Americans are responsible for recognizing the privileges that this systemic oppression has afforded them, all Americans must participate in unmasking the anti-Black structures that uniquely harm the Black community. Silence in the face of injustice is not neutrality. It is picking the side of the oppressor.

    The murder of George Floyd has sparked protests from Minneapolis to here in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Detroit, and other major American cities. These protests demand justice for George Floyd, but are also a reflection of the rage that black Americans feel in the face of hundreds of years of the same injustices and far too little progress.

    We encourage EMU students to stand up for what is right by participating in demonstrations and advancing anti-racism in all of the ways that this can be done safely. The coronavirus pandemic, which has also disproportionately harmed the black community, is still raging. Remember your responsibility to wear masks when assembling with large groups of people. Finally and most importantly, remember you have a part to play in honoring the memory of George Floyd and building a world in which no more like him have to die the same undeserving death.

    In solidarity,

    Ethan Smith Hajer Abuzir

  • May 29, 2020 - Statement from President James Smith, Provost Rhonda Longworth and Director of Diversity and Community Involvement Steven Bryant

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    To the Eastern Michigan University community:

    Most of us have watched over the past few weeks, in horror, disbelief and anger, a series of racial incidents, including the brutal death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. There is no place in our society where these incidents make sense and they illuminate the institutional and systemic racism and discrimination that is woven through the fabric of our nation. Incidents like these, even in our own backyard, provide moments to stand firm, and speak loudly and clearly, that hate and discrimination are not acceptable. We join with many others in condemning the individuals and actions that caused George Floyd’s death and in firm denunciation of hate and violence that continue to confront our communities. We hope you each join us in this stance against injustice everywhere.

    Public universities have served as community anchors during times of crisis. As institutions of truth, justice and learning, it is critical that we be part of the solution and not further the inequities, injustices and racism that continue to plague our world. We can only imagine the hurt, anger, and fear our Black students and employees feel. We stand in solidarity with them and recognize that caring deeply is not enough.

    Grounded in Eastern Michigan University’s mission are our core values including respect for all individuals, inclusiveness, and responsibility. Our guiding vision embraces our role as a public institution anchored in and serving our community. We know we have much work to do, and at times fall short in living these values, but these values and commitments are in our breadth of work and service every day, no matter our role. All of us must look internally and work collectively to root out the inequities and injustices that continue to manifest. No matter how difficult it gets, or the setbacks and shortcomings we experience, we will continue to remain steadfast in fostering inclusive excellence throughout Eastern Michigan University.