The following message was sent to undergraduates at Columbia College, Columbia Engineering and the School of General Studies on June 2, 2020.
We write to you, with heavy hearts, to address the tragedy and unrest we have all witnessed over the last week. Just as our nation was anticipating the next phase of an unprecedented pandemic, the brutal killing of George Floyd, along with the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and others, forcefully reminded us of the pervasive racial injustice and lack of respect for Black Americans in this country.
This tragic moment has united citizens across the U.S. and around the world in anger, heartbreak, frustration and unity to protest yet another assault by members of the police on the Black community. We extend our deepest care and concern to each of you, and in particular to our Black students who we know are experiencing a profound sense of pain, despair and outrage at the acts of anti-Black racism and violence that continue to plague our country.
For all of us, the choice to be at Columbia is also a choice to be a member of a diverse campus environment located in the largest city in the country. It is also a choice to participate in an institution that is rigorous about learning, inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge. While we often hear about new knowledge at the frontiers of science and medicine, we also know that much of what our students explore is knowledge of the self and of humanity.
Through the national dialogue and protest taking place now, there is an opportunity for all of us to step back from our assumptions, reflect on our values and then commit to actions that will steer us towards greater support for one another and the collective creation of a more just world. What we witnessed last week in the death of George Floyd was the most extreme form of racism, but the insidiousness of racism and bias is the unintentional forms that show up in daily life.
When communities come together, it is so that each member can contribute the best of themselves to make the community stronger. For that to happen, each must also be valued, respected and cherished as an individual. While we have always believed this, this moment calls for an explicit expression of our belief that Black lives matter, not only to us but to our entire community.
We encourage you to reach out for any support you may need. Although words are powerful, we understand that now is a time for action. We are committed to our schools and communities being forces for change in the fight against systemic racism. We welcome your thoughts and encourage you to also find opportunities to participate in this movement by educating yourself on Black history and anti-racism, volunteering in local efforts to combat racism, joining peaceful demonstrations in your community and voting in upcoming elections.
In community and solidarity,
Mary C. Boyce
Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science
Dean of the School of General Studies
James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education