To Our Faculty, Staff and Students:
Your strong participation in last week’s Day of Dialogue demonstrated this community’s commitment to engage around issues of race. From implicit bias to institutional racism, health disparities to campus policing, you tackled difficult topics with urgency, empathy and an emphatic desire for meaningful change.
Tragically, national developments since Case Western Reserve’s June 10 event have only underscored the need for action. Just before midnight Friday, an Atlanta police officer shot and killed a 27-year-old Black man, Rayshard Brooks, outside a fast-food restaurant. Two days later in southern Ohio, a small local protest for Black Lives Matter drew hundreds of counter-demonstrators—some armed—spewing slurs and confronting residents.
Still, some signs of progress emerge. The states of New York and Iowa have banned police chokeholds and increased accountability for law enforcement. Atlanta’s mayor issued a series of executive orders to require de-escalation efforts and reduce officers’ use of force, while New York City’s Police Commissioner disbanded anti-crime units involving roughly 600 officers and known for aggressive force—including fatal shootings.
And, as protests and reckonings continue across the country, Confederate statues are coming down and others are starting to step up. NASCAR banned Confederate flags, the NFL acknowledged it was wrong in how it treated protesting players, and major polls show that Americans overwhelmingly believe these recent protests are justified.
Will these examples lead to more substantive advances? Will disparities in health, education, and economic opportunity narrow? And how will our university make the kinds of gains urged during last week’s discussions?
As we considered these and other related questions, we also recognized that this week includes a seminal anniversary in U.S. history, Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, Union Army Major General Gordon Granger stood in Galveston, Texas, and issued the order declaring “all slaves are free.” As Texas was the last state in the Confederacy to fall, the date of Granger’s declaration has become a national occasion for the celebration of emancipation.
In a year unlike any other we have experienced, Juneteenth has also taken on new meaning. Companies such as Adobe, Nike, Twitter, Target, Buzzfeed and Quicken Loans have announced that the day will be a holiday, while others have said they will close early.
This year, we ask that university offices and programs close or cancel operations this Friday, June 19, for a campus-wide Day of Observance.
Our goal is to give the campus community time to reflect on the issues raised during the Day of Dialogue and nationally in recent weeks. It is an opportunity to read, listen, and learn—and consider next steps for ourselves, and our university.
As part of this observance, we will post recordings of several of the Day of Dialogue discussions on the university’s website, as well as other materials still being finalized. You will receive updates and links later this week.
We recognize that this news comes on short notice, and that some university operations must continue on Friday. In those instances, supervisors need to work with their employees to ensure coverage and/or support for necessary activities—and also ensure that those staff who do work Friday receive another paid day away from work later this month. Determinations regarding classes scheduled for Friday will rest with the instructor for each course.
For now, we thank you again for engaging in the Day of Dialogue last week, and hope your time away from work Friday will offer opportunities for education, information—and inspiration.
Barbara R. Snyder
Ben Vinson III