05. 28. 2020

Dear Graduate Education Community:

Earlier this week our city and nation was shaken by the tragic death of yet another unarmed Black man, George Floyd. This has been followed by days of protests by community members who are grieving, including members of our own UMN graduate community. We recognize the pain, fear, anger, and hopelessness many in our UMN community are experiencing right now. The Graduate School and the Graduate School Diversity Office stand firmly in our values of diversity and inclusivity and denounce all forms of bigotry. To all of our Black students, staff, faculty, and community members, we stand with you and with all who stand against anti-Black racism, racial profiling, police brutality, and injustice.  

My heart is heavy with the weight of inhumanity and injustice in the killing of George Floyd, and in pain at the senselessness of his death. Although I often question whether social media and ubiquity of cameras are positive influences in society, I think that they just might be one of the tools to effect social change in this country. In the past, many people would have read a newspaper or listened to a television broadcast and might have dismissed the account of this event as fabrication, or an exaggeration. Today that isn't happening. No one who believes in human rights can view the video of Mr. Floyd's death and not conclude that his dignity, right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were violated. Social media and videos are forcing people across the country to confront the reality of what it means to be Black in the United States. However, the videos alone are not enough, and sharing them can also cause repeated trauma to affected members of our community.

I stand with President Gabel and all the leaders across Minnesota and our country who quickly called out the injustice in Mr. Floyd’s death, and in our State and Nation. Despite our shared feelings of hopelessness and despair, let’s come together to take action and confront bigotry while striving to create the open and equitable society that we are all entitled to, and to which we are promised in the very foundation of our constitution. As Graduate Dean, I ask that everyone in the graduate education community (faculty, staff and students) think proactively about how we can help the country move forward. Not just today, not just in our professional lives, but throughout our lives. This is my commitment, and the commitment of the Graduate School.

On Friday, May 29, at 3:30pm, the Graduate School Diversity Office (GSDO) and I will host a virtual sharing circle for any members of the UMN graduate education community to process their feelings and experiences in relation to this topic.

RSVP: z.umn.edu/gsdotalk 

As needed, please utilize the variety of emotional support services available to you, such as Boynton Mental Health, Student Counseling Services, Stress Management, Counseling Services-Duluth, Employee Assistance Program, and Employee Assistance Program-Duluth. You may also set up a meeting with a member of the GSDO if you would like to talk one on one. As always, please report any incidences of discrimination at the U of M to the Bias Response and Referral Network.


Scott Lanyon
Vice Provost & Dean of Graduate Education