University community responds to national protests

· 7 min read

University community responds to national protests

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As protests continue in all 50 states, members of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln community have responded in a variety of ways — including the addition of their voices to the national debate taking place regarding the death of George Floyd.

The responses from across campus included a statement by Chancellor Ronnie Green and a call for the campus community to take part in a June 2 Dish it Up discussion, which had more than 300 participants.

In addition, on June 5, the chancellor called for the university to start a “journey” in pursuit of anti-racism and racial equity, a focus that will be ongoing and not a “one and done” initiative.

“This will require commitment and action from all of us, particularly our leaders across our campus,” Green said. “We will be, and should be, held accountable for ensuring actions are taken. If we do not, we will fail to fulfill our mission of access and success for all — the basic premise of our founding in 1869.”

Additional calls to action are summarized below.

After the emotional weekend, Marco Barker, vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, admitted that he failed to write an initial statement as necessary words escaped him.

"During these times, the two words I hear over and over when others speak about moving forward are hope and reform," Barker said. "It takes us believing that change will come and that it is possible. This is why I do this work.

I do believe that while I cannot reach everyone through my efforts, I can do my part."

Read Barker's entire message, which also featured links to resources for students, faculty and staff, alongside link for individuals seeking education and information.

In a message from the Office of Academic Success and Intercultural Services, Charlie Foster, assistant vice chancellor for inclusive student excellence, reflected on the way the university's core values are committed to forging a community that feels accepted, valued and safe.


"Living our values means that we all must be worried and concerned about the safety and well-being of African American and African communities, students, staff and faculty members in times like these," Foster said. "Moreover, as a land grant institution, we take seriously the needs of Lincoln and the entire State of Nebraska.

"To that end, OASIS and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion want our students, staff, and faculty to know that we are here to support and care for our campus."

Read Foster's entire message.

Ted Carter, president of the NU system, pledged that the university will work every day to be part of the greater solution to racism.

Student body presidents representing each institution in the NU system — including Roni Miller, president of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska — issued a joint statement regarding Floyd's death and ongoing protests.

"This experience has left us collectively saddened with certain members of our community deeply affected, but now is the time to focus on actions that will make this a moment of real and positive change," the student leaders said. "We intend to live, work and raise our children in a world where diversity is celebrated, where opportunity is extended to all, and where every individual is treated equitably, regardless of the color of their skin."

A statement from the university's African/African American Leadership Caucus voiced support for the protests and a hope that national leaders would carry the discussion beyond just words.

"Beyond statements of support and concern by our elected officials and other leadership (which we welcome), the AAALC also ask for concrete actions, vigilant scrutiny of law enforcement in our immediate community, and greater sensitivity to the needs and concerns of black people in our community."

Karen Kassebaum, assistant vice chancellor for inclusive leadership and learning, and a member of the caucus, posted the complete message on Twitter. Click the post below to learn more.

The African and African American Studies program released a statement June 5, calling on the university to review its institutional relationships and partnerships with local and state police forces; an overhaul of current police procedures that embolden law enforcement officers to use deadly force and escalation tactics; guarantees to protect the democratic rights to free expression and peaceful protest by all UNL students, faculty and staff participating in the movement for racial justice; and improved student access to on-campus legal, medical, and other services.

"We, the faculty of the African and African-American Studies Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, are compelled to speak out in condemnation of the most recent string of racist killings of black men and women in the U.S. and to express our firm support for and solidarity with the ensuing protest movement that has arisen across the country and around the world, including in Omaha, Lincoln and other Nebraska cities and towns," faculty wrote.

Read the full statement here.

The Department of English released a statement June 2, "Departmental Commitment to Anti-Racist Action." In it, English faculty wrote that as a department, "we commit ourselves to use our own resources to further reflect on systemic inequities that exist in our own processes, and we actively invite critique of racism and white supremacy embedded consciously or unconsciously in our curricular, co-curricular, and professional practices."

The statement also outlined direct steps faculty, staff and students can take including listening sessions, redesigning curriculum and outreach to deepen collective efforts advocating for social justice and a common read of Ibram X. Kendi's "How to be an Antiracist" and Robin DiAngelo's "White Fragility."

"Moreover, as a Department, we call on the University to implement a sequence of mandatory educational activities, which should be spread across all four years of the trajectory of every college student: rather than a one-off effort at the start of a student's college career, the University needs to create structures that increase, develop, and positively reinforce what is taught, and learned," faculty wrote.

Read the full message here.

Husker coaches, including Fred Hoiberg, a former guard for the Minnesota Timberwolves; Amy Williams and Scott Frost also posted about the events.

And, Sheldon Museum of Art showcased Gordon Parks' incredible photograph, "Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama," as a way to inspire others to pause and consider a different perspective.

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