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A message to the community from Dean VandenBosch and Equity and Diversity Committee leaders

This message was e-mailed to CALS faculty and staff on 6/2/2020. A similar version was sent to CALS undergraduate and graduate students on 6/2/2020.

CALS Community,

It is with much sadness and dismay that we write to you, as we reflect on recent events, which culminated with the unnecessary killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man. It is another example of acts of aggression and violence based on race that have no place in what we call “civilized” society. These acts are despicable and unacceptable, and must be called out. We empathize with our students, staff, and faculty from the African-American community, who are dealing with one more trauma to add to the historical list. Please know that we are here to support you.

Considering all that has happened in 2020, including hostile and intimidating behavior towards Asian-Americans, issues related to immigration, and the continued marginalization of underrepresented people, all during the backdrop of a global pandemic that has touched everyone, but has disproportionately affected those most vulnerable, many from these underserved populations, it is time to draw a line in the sand. It cannot be the sole responsibility of those most affected to advocate for and solve the issues that are so prevalent, nor is it enough to just offer resources or words for people to figure out how to “cope.” We must all be active participants in demanding meaningful change to systemic discrimination and creating community, to create an anti-racist culture. We can do this by educating ourselves on the historical and institutionalized systems that have created inequalities that set the tone for current conditions, and use our voices and actions to create change. We can do this by truly placing ourselves in the shoes of those afflicted, not out of pity, but in allyship, and allowing space and safety to vent, protest, or share their feelings without judgement or presenting unneeded barriers. We can do this by engaging in our own self-reflection and examining our own biases, and humbling ourselves to admit our blind spots and become better. We can do this by caring about our communities and not turning a blind eye to the needs and conditions that exist there.

Our mission in CALS is all about improving the quality and conditions of life through scientific innovation and discovery. We can improve lives by treating everyone with the human dignity and respect they deserve. If anyone witnesses or experiences any acts of racism within our school, please know this is not tolerated and we strongly encourage you to intervene. We want to remind you that you can report any instances of hate and bias.

If you are struggling to process your emotions, experiencing anxiety, or feel the need to talk to someone, please consider using these resources:

There is a way forward, but it has to be done together. And we cannot wish for things to return to normal, because there is much needed change, and that change must permeate through society. We are here to listen to each other, and support each other. We hope this summer will be a time of refreshing and recuperation from so many challenges. Please do everything you can to be safe and well, but take the time to reflect on everything going on around you. We are in unprecedented times.

Sincerely,

Tom Browne, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs & Co-chair CALS Equity & Diversity Committee
Natalia de Leon, Professor of Agronomy & Co-chair CALS Equity & Diversity Committee
Mark Rickenbach, Senior Associate Dean
Kate VandenBosch, Dean