George Floyd. His name is George Floyd and he should be alive today. Sadly, the list of black people in America subjected to violence is long and getting longer. We grieve for their moms, dads, spouses, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents whose loss is unimaginable. We grieve for their friends and neighbors and their community. I condemn brutality in all its forms, but it is most egregious in the hands of those who have taken an oath to protect.
My heart aches for so many as senseless acts of racism and violence continue. The pain and fear are evident in the protests, media, and conversations. The pain and fear are real for so many members of our campus community. We should all be angry, and for many anger has been replaced with exhaustion.
We must do better. Vol is a Verb, and action is important. We will continue the hard work to create a campus where everyone matters and belongs. Where anyone can study, work, learn, teach, jog, and live their daily life without fear. Where education becomes the great equalizer for anyone who wants it. Creating an environment for all Vols to succeed is a responsibility we all share.
Many groups have been working for weeks on making our campus safe for the return of students in the fall—safe from COVID-19. Some ask how is that in 2020 we still face the need to make sure that students, faculty, and staff are safe from racism. Black friends and colleagues have expressed to me that they are tired of having this conversation only to have it followed by another disgusting display of racism. We all need to join together to carry the torch of safety, dignity, respect, and human rights for everyone. We will do both of these things—plan for a fall safe from the coronavirus, and also plan for a future at this university where everyone feels safe and respected, where we have achieved our goals of being a place where everyone matters and belongs.
I will be convening members of our campus—students, faculty, staff, UTPD—in a conversation about how we pull together, support one another, and create the campus we want to have. I will work in partnership with student, faculty, and staff representatives to listen, learn, and take action. At a time when we are separated by distance, it is more important than ever to be united in commitment and support for one another. Take time to check on your friends and colleagues who might be having a difficult time. They are in pain and they need to know we are here for them.
Volunteers step forward in leadership and service. We will step forward and show the world what kindness, equity, and inclusion for all people can look like.