To the University community,
The nation is watching closely and awaiting an outcome in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. The prosecution and defense are expected to deliver closing arguments Monday, after which jury members will sequester for deliberation.
The murder of George Floyd last spring accelerated an American reckoning of racial and social injustice. It exposed the intersection of dual pandemics that simultaneously are ravaging this nation—one of public health and another of racial inequity. However, the verdict of this singular trial will not bring reprieve to those in our communities who are most suffering. It will not return to grieving families the loved ones whose lives senselessly have been taken. It will not heal the deep wounds created and reopened, time and again, by systemic racism.
Make no mistake—that pain resides in our university, as well. I have, in recent months, heard first-hand accounts of lived experience and suffering from within our La Salle community. While we all share in the pain and grief provoked by Mr. Floyd’s death, systemic racism has taken a considerable emotional toll on our Black and Brown students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors. They want accountability and equality in our wider society and parochial communities, as well as on campus.
We have work to do. We all do.
As members of an educational community, we are uniquely positioned to lead in this space. We have an opportunity to foster discussion on provocative and sometimes uncomfortable subjects. We must invoke and welcome diverse viewpoints without fear of penalty or ridicule, and while always maintaining our lenses of mutual respect and collegiality. We must make change through timely curricular offerings, relevant academic research, and institutional policies and procedures—leading to more culturally inclusive practices and pushing us intellectually to challenge the world around us. Of paramount importance, we must commit daily to upholding our individual responsibility of creating an anti-racist university culture—one in which everyone feels welcome, appreciated, and equal.
Together and by association, we Lasallians—here in Philadelphia and around the world—commit to a mission that includes our core value of service that is rooted in solidarity and justice. That historic mission spans five centuries and pushes us to stand against oppressive behavior, to stand with those marginalized, and to create a more equitable society.
That is who we are. That is who we must continue to be.
I encourage our La Salle community to respond with respect and civility, regardless of the trial’s outcome. Counseling services are available, if you find yourself or someone else in the La Salle community suffering greatly as a result. The Student Counseling Center is available during regular business hours, and an after-hours telecounseling service is accessible on weeknights and weekends, by calling 215-951-1355. The Employee Assistance Program, available through The Standard, provides stress- and anxiety-management support by calling 888-293-6948. Also, you can contact University Ministry, Service and Support (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the University’s Multicultural and International Center (215-951-1948) for additional resources.
Lastly, we will hold a brief prayer service tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. in De La Salle Chapel. COVID-19 protocols will limit our number of permissible in-person attendees, who are required to wear masks and stay physically distanced. Please note that the prayer service will be livestreamed on Facebook by University Ministry, Service and Support. In this moment, let’s come together in prayer and compassion—as Lasallians and as human beings.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D.