George Floyd, Juneteenth, & Our Commitment to Inclusion

To the Case Western Reserve Community:

A year ago on this date, we went about Memorial Day activities with no idea that the night would end with a murder that shook the nation.

George Perry Floyd Jr., 46, died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. 

The protests that followed have been called the largest movement in the country’s history, with last month’s conviction of Chauvin a long-awaited moment of justice for those who watched other cities’ police officers spared indictments after ending the lives of unarmed Black individuals.

In the weeks after George Floyd’s death, Case Western Reserve hosted a Day of Dialogue and a Day of Observance to mark Juneteenth. We launched a Race and Justice website featuring statements, resources and events. And we redoubled efforts to increase diversity across the university. 

Still, we know we have so much more to do—as a country, campus and community. Police shootings continue even as lawmakers work to advance reform. Violence against people of Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi and Asian American (APIDAA) descent continues to climb, with a nationwide study showing nearly half experienced some form of discrimination—and a third fearing physical attack. Even members of our own APIDAA community report experiencing microaggressions and insensitive remarks on campus.

More recently, conflict in the Middle East has spurred a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S., with anti-Muslim activity increasing as well. Let us be clear: Violence or any other form of discrimination against an individual or group directly conflicts with our university’s core values.

Yet achieving our goals of diversity and inclusion requires far more than ending abhorrent acts and behavior. We must engage with one another, seek to understand and be understood, and act in meaningful, measurable ways to become the kind of inclusive campus community we know we can be.

Such work requires deep reflection and, at times, difficult conversations. To encourage such efforts, this year we again will close the university in observance of Juneteenth—in this instance, on Friday, June 18. Our Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity, the Office of the Provost, and the African American Employee Resource Group are developing recorded programming now, and will provide updates and other resources in the near future.

As is often the case, some university operations must continue June 18. In those instances, supervisors need to work with their employees to coordinate coverage and/or support for necessary activities—and also ensure that those staff who do work Friday receive another paid day away from work before June 30.

However you spend this day, we hope it leaves you more informed and inspired. We look forward to working toward our common goals in the weeks and months to come.

Scott Cowen
Interim President

Ben Vinson III
Provost and Executive Vice President