Words, Values and Actions

To Our Faculty, Staff and Students:

Bright yellow and roughly 50 feet tall, the letters cover two city blocks just north of the White House.

Painted on 16th Street just today, they spell three words: Black Lives Matter.

Earlier this week, those same three words appeared on our Spirit Wall, stretching across its entire length in all capital letters.

In both instances, the messages are too striking to be missed. The more pressing question, though, is how long will they last?

The three words that launched a global movement first appeared on social media in July 2013, prompted by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Seven years later, scenes from across the country this week demonstrate not only pain and desperation, but also an urgent need for national engagement around race.

Next week at Case Western Reserve, we will take our own small step toward that effort. Several offices and organizations across the campus have come together for a campus-wide Day of Dialogue, Wednesday, June 10. Because planning has just begun, specifics are few. But we wanted you to be able to mark your calendars as soon as possible.

The day will include sessions offering facilitated "safe spaces" for discussion within and among groups, Q&As with specific university offices and, we hope, conversations that ultimately yield specific ideas about ways our university can help address systemic racism. We will provide additional details as soon as they are available.

In addition to announcing the Day of Dialogue, we also want to take this opportunity to reiterate Case Western Reserve’s core value of Inclusiveness and Diversity, which includes “civility and the free exchange of ideas,” “civic and international engagement,” and “appreciation for the distinct perspectives and talents of each individual.” First articulated in the university’s 2008 strategic plan Forward Thinking—and repeated in subsequent plans—these ideas are, if anything, more imperative today.

Finally, we must pause for a moment to focus on the individuals at our university most directly and deeply affected by the death of George Floyd and all of the developments that have followed: the people of color within our community and, especially now, those who are African American. You are a part of Case Western Reserve. We support you. And you absolutely, undeniably matter.

Whatever happens to the painted letters on East 16th Street or our own Spirit Wall over time, their message will continue to hold meaning on this campus. Next week, we will come together to explore how we can more effectively answer its call.

Barbara R. Snyder

Ben Vinson
Provost and Executive Vice President