Dear Students, Staff and Faculty
The death last May of George Floyd and the current trial of Derek Chauvin charged with Mr. Floyd’s murder have been mentally and emotionally painful for many members of our community. The death last week of Daunte Wright at the hands of a Minnesota law enforcement officer and other cases that recently came to light have further inflamed pain and tension.
While these events are external to KU, they disrupt lives and well-being inside our community. The pain is real.
Leaders in the Office of Multicultural Affairs and in the Office of Diversity Equity, Inclusion and Belonging are in touch with our community members to check in and offer virtual spaces for discussion, reflection and support. OMA will coordinate spaces specifically for our student communities.
We are working to ensure that all members of our community have an opportunity to process the trial verdict as well as the deaths of Mr. Floyd, Mr. Wright and others. We hope to provide a space in which we each can contemplate the pain and racism experienced in our community, as well as nationally, and contribute to a climate that fosters change and healing. Campus activities for our students, staff and faculty — especially those most deeply affected by racial violence, harassment and discrimination — provide support and care that can help them regain strength and focus in their studies, work, scholarship, and in their lives.
If you need time away from work or studies as a result of these events, please talk with your supervisor or instructors. Supervisors and instructors, thank you in advance for supporting those who are feeling the effects of ongoing traumas by identifying suitable arrangements for those who request time away from work or studies.
As a community, we aspire, and simply must do the work, to build circles of care on our campus at this critical moment in history. Please consider reaching out to those close to you with a message or gesture of care, or simply to ask how they are doing. Those faculty and staff to whom students turn for support tell us they feel the weight of this moment themselves, even as they are also called to care for students of color. In a more ideal world and community, the responsibility of care would fall to us all. Please consider how you can help our campus move closer to this ideal by looking for ways to ease the burdens of our campus colleagues who are devoting so much time to students in need.
As an institution, we have long recognized the need for professional care and support. KU has a number of offices and programs that provide assistance for members in our community who need it. However, asking for help is never easy. If you see someone in need, please complete the personal circle of care and help them connect.
Students sometimes turn to the university’s classrooms and spaces as a refuge when they can more freely be themselves and live with less anxiety and less fear from harassment, discrimination or violence. Instructors, please remember that the Center for Teaching Excellence provides guidance on how to lead discussions surrounding racially sensitive issues in an academic setting.
Jayhawks, we need your help in making the University of Kansas, our communities and this nation a better place for each of us. This work is not easy. The advances may not be swift. However, they must happen — in our classes, research, work, and living spaces; in our interactions with others; and in our service to our communities.
Thank you for the care you bring to others and for the care you bring to all you do at KU.
Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor