Confronting Racism and Advancing Change
May 31, 2020
Dear Huskie Community,
Actions in the past week and, frankly, every week for decades and decades, show that racism is a thriving, deep-rooted infection in our nation. It’s clear as day when you witness George Floyd’s heinous murder caught on camera, but it’s less visible when it’s built into our economy, health care, education and justice systems. Just because it cannot be seen doesn’t mean it’s not there, and it doesn’t mean that as individuals we don’t have a responsibility to make it better.
I want the people of color in our community to know that NIU sees you and that NIU wants to be your community and a place where you have allies. NIU’s mission, vision and values are about equity, respect, building a better society, being accountable and being strengthened by diversity. This is a 24/7 commitment and responsibility, not just when classes are in session. I call on each of us – administration, staff, faculty, student, alumni and neighbor – to reflect on what we value as Huskies, as human beings. This is a time to listen and learn, and a time to ask ourselves how we can contribute to positive change.
Our university does not stand alone in confronting racism. Saturday, our DeKalb community held a peaceful protest that proudly included members of our students, faculty and staff, and was organized by an alum. NIU Chief of Police Thomas Phillips also shared an honest and heartfelt message to the community, and the leadership from the Mid-American Conference has also issued an important statement. There is plenty of room at the table for others to join us in future discussions about improving our communities and we all must commit to doing it in ways that are non-violent.
NIU is fortunate to have a dedicated team of outstanding professionals in our Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI) whose daily work focuses on advancing social justice through education, awareness and action. They, along with the many trained CODE facilitators across the campus, are a resource to us all. ADEI will be identifying additional, meaningful ways to engage in our community in recognizing – and healing – the trauma, the realities of fear, the stereotyping and the bias that is occurring and being exacerbated. We will work together to inspire hope and make systemic change.
I know I will continue to reflect and talk with my family and friends about this topic, and I encourage you to do the same. 2020 has been a historic year, and my hope is that it’s the tipping point that will lead to the remarkable change needed to protect the lives and well-being of all who call this country home. By coming together, we can help NIU do its part to make that happen.
Lisa C. Freeman