Our commitment to our students and our communities is to improve lives and increase opportunity through education, but we cannot achieve that goal if we fail to stand up and speak out about racist actions and structures that disproportionately impact our Black and Brown communities. Like so many others of all backgrounds and races, we now share the grief of another Black life lost, and the outrage of knowing that Mr. George Floyd is only the most recent victim of four centuries of unresolved racial hostility.
For the past two months, we have been overwhelmed as we shared a common threat in the form of an international pandemic. We wake up thinking about what we need to do to protect ourselves from this unseen enemy as we don masks, practice social distancing, and warily view others as we enter public spaces. Now, imagine what our students and employees of color have faced every day of their lives. They must start their days with an awareness that they face an unseen enemy that can lie dormant for long periods and then suddenly and sometimes violently appear to threaten their lives and their livelihoods. For some it is an everyday risk, and for others it takes a horrific act caught on video to remind us of the shared illness of racism that has persisted for over 400 years in our nation. That is the pandemic that we must come together to resolve and we must do so with the same urgency, sense of shared purpose, and dedication of resources that we have brought to the fight against COVID-19.
Our message to our students, faculty and staff is simple. We stand with you.
We know we can do better and, as educators, we have an obligation to lead the change. As the state’s largest provider of higher education, serving nearly half of all students of color in Colorado, we commit to doing our part to disrupt and eradicate injustice, racism and systems of oppression in our institutions and in our communities.
The message of the protests is not lost on us.
As higher education leaders, we will elevate this call to action by re-examining our law enforcement programs and policies to improve training specifically in the areas of racial justice, diversity, unconscious bias and de-escalation of conflict. We will also continue and accelerate the great work that is being shepherded by equity champions across our system at all thirteen of our colleges. That work includes providing culturally responsive social-emotional support for all students, the commitment of on-going resources to our equity coalitions, and challenging our own perceptions of race as we examine what it means to be truly equity-minded in our daily work.
Our work as educators and leaders is more important than ever. It is our responsibility and duty to the more than 125,000 students that entrust us with their post-secondary education to take real steps to combat racism and unconscious bias. By fostering mutual respect, engaging in difficult dialogue and caring for one another in these uncertain times, we can be a powerful force that leads to transformative change for all communities.
We know that these words of action are only meaningful if we follow through – together – and actively take steps to build a future that works for every one of us.
That is our commitment and we hope you will join us.