June 1, 2020
Dear Campus Community,
It is with a heavy heart that I write to acknowledge the horrific incidents that have taken place across the country following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed while in Minneapolis Police custody. His death, having come on the heels of the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other people of color, clearly illustrates the need for systemic equity. Those with a desire for change took to the streets to advocate for an end to institutionalized racism and a fair law enforcement system for all across the nation. Examples of these peaceful demonstrations were visible right here in Marquette. Although rioters have hijacked some demonstrations, the messages of those peaceful protestors is clear: systemic equity is a goal we must strive for in all sectors of society.
These inequities remind us of how necessary it is for individuals and organization to address the needs of marginalized and minoritized communities. To that end, the NMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion will be reaching out to interested students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to develop a series of forums. Campus programming, such as the annual UNITED conference, will be re-envisioned to include a strong focus on examining structural barriers to systemic equity in relation to access to education as well as public health, law enforcement, and voting policies.
Statements like these do not fix deeply rooted issues nor do they heal the pain many of you, of us, are feeling. I recognize that the events surrounding these deaths carry a heavy emotional toll. We care for you. We are here for you. I want to remind you of support services available to our campus community:
- Counseling and Consultation Services
- Dean of Students
- Office of Diversity and Inclusion
- Northern’s faculty and staff
In the coming weeks, Jessica Cruz, our Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, and others on campus will work to identify actionable strategies for moving forward and creating opportunities for dialogue. Please watch for details about those events.
In the midst of a global pandemic, peacefully protesting is even more complicated. If you gather to raise your voice on these issues, please do so safely in all manners, including ways that limit the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a facial mask and trying to maintain social distancing to protect your health and others. This will help to ensure we can all participate in the civil discourse on campus in the upcoming months.
As we continue to navigate the pandemic that has affected us all in various ways, with communities of color facing a disproportionate impact, let us re-commit ourselves to the fight for a just, civil, and equitable society.
Fritz Erickson, NMU President