Dean Ward Farnsworth sent the message below to law students on June 1, 2020.
President Hartzell has just released a statement that speaks for the University administration about recent events. I support and endorse all that he has said. I write now to offer a few more personal words.
This is a profoundly hard moment in our national life. The killing of George Floyd and the similar recent deaths of other Black men and women, and the public response to these events, have raised deep and painful questions for this country about justice, race, and the law. The questions are pressing for everyone, and they are especially pressing for all of us here at the Law School because advancing justice is our work. We all have to be thinking about these events not just as citizens but as lawyers — as those charged with responding to injustice and to the call of distress. It is my hope that we can turn these events into a renewed sense of urgency and purpose. That is what goes through my mind when I watch the world and think about you, our students: more than ever, the world needs you and your passion for what is right.
At the same time, I know that the hardships of this moment are not the same for everyone. Many of you have had experiences — your own, or the experiences of your communities — that make the pain of this time, and the sense of mission that it creates, very personal. My thoughts and my heart are with you. Our Black student community is especially on my mind right now. I’d like very much to be able to say, “I know how you feel.” But I am sure I do not. What I can do is listen, and say to you and all of our students: we are here for you.
Speaking of listening, I also appreciate the strong statement about these events from the university’s diversity officers. They include Shavonne Henderson ’05, our great graduate, faculty member, and Director of Student Inclusion and Equity. I’m including their statement below for any who have not seen it yet. Shavonne, and the team in our Student Affairs Office, are available to any who could use support at this time.
Thank you for pulling together as a community in this moment of such need.
Statement by The Coalition of Diversity and Inclusion Officers, University of Texas at Austin
June 1, 2020
As diversity officers at the University of Texas at Austin, we are grieved, horrified, saddened by the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, as well as countless others who have lost their lives to acts of racial violence. These egregious acts of racial profiling, physical violence, and death of Black individuals are taking place against a backdrop of a global pandemic that places in bold relief the wrenching inequities that have divided our nation as the virus disproportionately ravages communities of color.
We recognize that we are experiencing more than just a moment of discomfort and discontent. Our nation’s dark history has led to this critical moment in time. This is a history that we must grapple with, as we collectively struggle to move forward together.As diversity officers we want our community and particularly its Black members, many of whom grew up in the same city as George Floyd and may have known him or his people, to know that we are here for you. We understand that these recent senseless events are triggering, tragic, and a stark reminder that Black lives are fragile and can be stolen from us at any moment.
We urge everyone to remember that if one of us is hurting, then we all hurt. Our silence in the face of injustice sends a negative message to the most vulnerable members of our university community. Now, more than ever, we reaffirm and reinvigorate our commitment to supporting an equitable, inclusive, and just institution in which violence, hate, and intolerance are not accepted and are actively combatted.We encourage all members of our university community to check in on and support each other, recognizing that these recent events differently impact our students and colleagues in very deep and personal ways.
We also encourage our community members to reach out directly to their college or school’s diversity officer for any support, guidance, and resources that they may need.
In Support and Solidarity,
The Coalition of Diversity and Inclusion Officers, University of Texas at Austin
Ya’Ke Smith, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Moody College of Communication
Esther J. Calzada, Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion, Steve Hicks School of Social Work
Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto, Assistant Dean for Civic Engagement, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
Edmund T. Gordon, Vice Provost for Diversity, University of Texas at Austin
Shavonne Henderson, Director of Student Equity and Inclusion, School of Law
Christine Julien, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Cockrell School of Engineering
Samuel Moore, Director of Outreach and Diversity, Jackson School of Geosciences
Shelley Payne, Advisor to the Dean for Diversity & Inclusion, College of Natural Sciences
Monique Pikus, Director of Diversity and Organizational Climate, College of Liberal Arts
Rene Salazar, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Dell Medical School
Raji Srinivasan, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, McCombs School of Business
Richard J. Reddick, Associate Dean for Equity, Community Engagement, and Outreach, College of Education
Skyller Walkes, Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, College of Pharmacy