A year ago, after we had all seen the video of George Floyd’s killing, I wrote to all of you, saying that “We watched with shock and horror the video of a white policeman callously, even casually, kneeling on the neck of an unarmed and unresisting black man until that man was dead, while other policemen stood by and watched.” I said that “This brutal and racist act was like something out of Mississippi during Jim Crow, out of a past we don’t acknowledge enough, but it wasn’t. It is our reality, in the here and now, a reality that reflects the harsh, brutal, terrible, ongoing legacy of America’s original sin.”

Since that time tens of millions of Americans have marched and insisted on fundamental change. On our campus we committed to act in ways that mitigate the pervasive and systematic injustices and brutalities of anti-Blackness, and the result was our Black Thriving Initiative. Every corner of the campus mobilized. Some shared their personal experiences; others listened to our friends, colleagues, and classmates who were willing to discuss their experiences of racism, injustice, and violence. We are in the midst of our own collective reimagining of campus public safety.

Today’s outcome in the trial of that police officer is an important step toward accountability for that horrific injustice. May the jury’s decision give George Floyd’s family and loved ones some measure of peace. Still, we know that the verdict will not take away the pain and loss that family has suffered, nor the pain and exhaustion suffered by so many who have experienced and re-experienced such horrors all too often.

The verdict is a step, but it is just one step. There is still so much to do. Let this verdict, and the example of the people who bore witness to these events, and the efforts of the prosecutors and police leaders who stood up to make this verdict possible, and the jurors who answered the call and spoke for the community, encourage us all to continue this important work, as we create a more just and equitable future for us all.

Chancellor Howard Gillman