To all members of the IU community,
Like many of you, I have followed the events in Minneapolis and the demonstrations in cities around the nation in response to the tragic death of George Floyd with a mixture of deep sadness, frustration, anger and disappointment. My heart goes out to all those feeling pain and anguish over this senseless death and to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in the protests of recent days or who have suffered loss and damage in other ways. It is truly difficult to comprehend this tragedy and to find the right words to console the many people, especially members of the African-American community, who are hurting right now and hoping that justice will ultimately be served.
To echo IU Vice President James Wimbush, who eloquently expressed his sadness and great concern earlier today on the reaction, in his home city of Indianapolis, to George Floyd’s death, the list is far too long of those black and brown individuals who have been subjected to disturbing violence in recent years. This list underscores the racism, bigotry, intolerance and hatred that too many members of our society, especially people of color, are forced to confront on a daily basis. It also draws our attention to the deeply disturbing growth in recent years here and around the world in the number of hate groups, as well as the immensely concerning increase in the number of acts of hatred and violence against minorities.
Here at IU, students of color now make up more than a quarter of the university’s total enrollment. Hence what is happening in Minneapolis and other cities around the nation serves as a powerful reminder that we have a special obligation to work to ensure that our campus communities are places where differences of all kinds, whether of race, ethnicity or belief, are respected, valued and protected, and where hatred, bigotry and intolerance will be powerfully condemned.
We are all members of an educational community, and as such, we must always, as part of the very core of what we do, face the challenges inherent in understanding and evaluating the ideas, assertions and arguments that come from other perspectives, other traditions, other disciplines and other beliefs, as we pursue our fundamental mission of searching for knowledge and truth. At the same time, we cannot afford to ignore the lessons drawn from the serious and informed study of present-day racism and intolerance and their deep connections with centuries-old traditions of suspicion and hatred. Much important scholarship is taking place at IU in these areas, and that scholarship has never been more important.
We must continue to insist that there is absolutely no room at IU for discrimination or harassment based on anyone’s actual or perceived race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or political beliefs. We see our diversity as one of our cardinal virtues. We are extremely proud of our students of color and their achievements – students who are such a vital part of the cultural and historical fabric of our institution, but we will have failed them if we cannot provide to them campus environments where they feel safe, supported and respected.
In the days and months ahead, we must strongly reaffirm Indiana University’s fundamental commitment to diversity and equity. We must condemn those who seek to divide us based on race, ethnicity, national origin and other areas. We must join together as a strong and vigorous educational community to be inclusive, supportive and welcoming to all. And we must always stand up for what is good and right.
Michael A. McRobbie