Boston University: “We Grieve for Our Country”

As members of the Boston University community, our institute works very closely with many schools and departments across the university. BU President Robert A. Brown and the Questrom School of Business Dean Susan Fournier shared the following responses to recent tragic events, which we are reposting here in solidarity.

BU President Robert A. Brown (June 3, 2020):

Dear Friends,

On Monday, I sent a letter to the BU community to express my horror at the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd at the hands of police officers and others motivated by their hatred of Black people. I tried to express my condemnation of a racist system that is deeply embedded in American life and creates an environment where the murder of Black people and their systematic exclusion from social and economic justice is a daily part of this country’s existence.

Many of you read that letter and have told me I did not do a good job in expressing how I felt about this tragic situation and the state of our country. Hundreds of you spoke from the heart, and I hear you loud and clear. Talking about the return to campus in the same breath as the deaths of those individuals, as I did in the letter, was a mistake. Your concerns have pushed me to reflect on what is most important to say to you at this moment. So if you will allow me one more opportunity.

The entire Boston University community condemns what has transpired in Minneapolis and every other city where African Americans have been killed and racism has been tolerated.

The lives of our Black students, faculty, and staff, and all Black lives, matter. The deaths of Black men and women at the hands of racists should shake every other soul in this nation and make us understand and share your anger.

Racism is an affront to humanity. At universities, of all places, we should understand that by not reminding ourselves of this every day, by not assuming responsibility for its eradication, we aid and abet its perpetuation. And yes, while Boston University has taken a number of steps to fight racism and promote social and economic justice, we need to assume even more responsibility, which we will do and you will see in the months ahead.

I am sorry that I disappointed so many of you on Monday. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Like you, I am sickened by what has happened and continues to happen in our country. In my letter, I spoke like the engineer I was trained to be, trying to look ahead to a time when our community can work together to push out racism and bigotry. Today, this letter is from my heart, and my heart is with all of you who feel the dehumanizing sting of racism, and who lose a part of your own life every time a Black man or Black woman is murdered because they are Black.

Susan Fournier, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean, Questrom School of Business
(June 1, 2020):

Dear Questrom Community,

Last week, our nation watched in horror as we witnessed the tragic and unacceptable death of George Floyd, the latest black citizen killed at the hands of police and the most recent incident in an on-going series of racially- motivated killings, violence, and verbal and physical abuse. We mourn the loss of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many others whose stories remain untold in the shadows of systemic racism. Our anger and pain are raw. For some, these events fill us with rage, and for others, they leave us speechless. Many of us feel shameful; we are confused by not knowing if and how we should speak up, and what exactly we can or should not do.

But, speak up we must—even if we risk being wrong. The situation is urgent and commands a stance of intolerance. Hate has no place in our homes or in our communities. Boston University was founded as a beacon of freedom. The first Dean of Questrom School of Business grounded us in a deep appreciation of diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect for one another. We are proud of this heritage, and now more than ever, we need to make tangible the meaning of these values in our daily lives to do what we can to obliterate structural racism and injustice.

To be honest, I do not know what comes next for our country or for Questrom. How do we heal the anger and pain? How do we move forward to solve centuries of injustice? How do we eradicate prejudice and bias from our daily lives? How do we move people from being colorblind to “color brave”? Although the path forward may be unclear, we cannot waver because the road is unpaved and the route complicated. The time is now to look deep within ourselves; to question our prejudices, our privilege, and our actions; to share our lived experiences; and to rework our policies, our structures, and our belief systems to eradicate the deeply rooted system of racism in this country.

Our Questrom community—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability/disability, or political affiliation—must work each and every day to establish and maintain our culture of dignity, fairness, and respect for all. You have my commitment that we will do everything we can to address the structural racism that threatens us. You have my commitment to continued investments in our Questrom Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and its ongoing efforts to remove systemic barriers and biases. You have my commitment to continue to provide spaces where we can meet people where they are: whether they seek help making sense of this, a place for healing, or just comfort in taking care of each other. Each of us comes to this with the lenses of different backgrounds and experiences, and you have my commitment that we will spend the days and weeks ahead listening to and engaging with our community to identify next steps for Questrom. These issues are bigger than the administration or one Center or one team: it will take all of us, working together, to build a just world.

I know many of us are looking for ways to connect, to process, and to work things through. Below are some of the ways we can begin these hard conversations and inform further action:

  • Wednesday, June 3, 5-7pm: What’s Next? A town hall with BU’s black community facilitated by Umoja: The Black Student Union – Zoom ID: 810 3229 2502 | Password: 1qT5ru
  • Wednesday, June 3, 5-6pm: A Conversation on Race and Policing
  • Thursday, June 4, 11am-12:30pm: COVID-19, Mental Health, and Race. Hosted by BU Diversity & Inclusion with panelists: David Henderson, MD; Carrie Landa, PhD; Kristin Long, PhD; Lisa L. Moore, PhD, LICSW. RSVP link.
  • Thursday, June 4, 3-5pm: myQuestrom Community Drop-in Hours with Questrom’s Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion – Open to all Questrom students who may be looking to process, be in community, and be heard. Drop in anytime between 3pm and 5pm – Zoom ID: 911 1551 9785 | Password: 166378
  • Ongoing: Join Tiffany Enos, Director for Questrom’s Center for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, for the R.A.C.E. Dialogues series offered each semester for Questrom faculty and staff; details forthcoming for a summer series
  • Ongoing: Subscribe to The Questrom Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion newsletter to learn more about ongoing programs and resources
  • Bookmark the Office of the Provost Center for Diversity & Inclusion website and sign up for their newsletter highlighting events aimed at sparking dialogue, nurturing a positive campus climate, and connecting BU faculty, students and staff around issues of diversity, access, and inclusiveness
  • Engage with Faculty and Staff Networks (i.e. Allies & Advocates, Faculty/Staff of Color, LGBTQIA+-Identified Faculty/staff, and SAFEBUDS) for greater support and community. Tiffany Enos and Courtney Hudson can connect you.

I look forward to coming together out of this darkness and into the light of shared understanding and progress. In the meantime, I hope each of you can do what you can to find some peace, and take care of each other and yourselves.

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