A message to the KU community regarding racism in America

Students, colleagues and members of the community:

We, the Chancellor and Provost of the University of Kansas, are emerging, as many of you are, from a week of heart-wrenching conversations about the toxic impact that racism has on all of our communities. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee, and the exchange between Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper in Central Park, are just recent and high-profile additions to innumerable immoral acts of racism to Black members of our communities.

The protests across the country, in the region, and in our cities over the past week and in Lawrence Sunday night are powerful statements of the depth of pain and anger that so many of our students, colleagues and friends are feeling. We have done a lot of listening over the past several days, and we recognize the disappointment that our earlier messages created. We hear our community members when you tell us you are broken-hearted and exhausted, and that it’s too much to bear.

We know that acts of racism and discrimination, in their many forms, happen in Lawrence and at KU, and on a regular basis. We are not free of the causes of this period of protest and unrest.

The egregious acts of racism and discrimination that have been targeted toward our Black community members do not stand in isolation. Members of Asian, LatinX, Muslim, immigrant and LGBTQIA communities are also targets of hate speech, discrimination, and racialized violence. Our community members who have disabilities and those who experience challenges with mental health are often stigmatized, abandoned, and suffer in silence. Members of our Black and Native communities have been disproportionately devastated by COVID-19, which is another fatal reminder of the systemic disparities in health outcomes, availability of financial support, and educational resources for so many of our most vulnerable community members.

Our hearts break with yours. We stand with you and for you.

It’s long past time for racism and discrimination to end. If we are to be on the side of social justice, we — meaning, we as leaders, KU as an institution, and each of us as community members — simply must do the work.

We all need KU to be a place that doesn’t replicate, tolerate or perpetuate racism, systematically, systemically, or individually. We know you are anxiously waiting and hoping that we can get past talking and hollow promises, and do something together in a different way that begins to make things better. You want us to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we are ready to step up, to take responsibility, and to place KU at the forefront of social change.

In consultation and collaboration with leaders of our communities of color and marginalized groups, we begin today to engage in actions that move us to change:

  1. We will convene the leaders of our campus police, the City of Lawrence Police Department, the City Manager and the Mayor to discuss policing strategies that reinforce respectful and community-engaged policing, and to re-emphasize comprehensive police training that does not permit the kinds of acts that led to the death of George Floyd and so many others.
  2. We will bring together the leaders of our diversity councils to establish a university-level advisory council for equity and inclusion and commit to regular and continued outreach.
  3. We will charge leaders across campus to participate in training that will allow us to begin the work of facilitating intergroup dialogues that bring together representatives of agent groups and target groups to open up difficult conversations.
  4. We will partner with leaders in higher education and in the public and private sectors across the Greater Kansas City Region to engage in initiatives that immediately begin to address root causes in key areas that impact racial violence.
  5. We will ensure that improving equity, diversity and inclusion is explicitly stated as a goal for each team in our COVID-19 Design Challenge and in the longer term, in all of our Jayhawks Rising strategic doing activities.

As always, we want to hear from you, and we want you to know the resources the University has available to support you:

  • Office of Diversity & Equity | 785-864-4904 or diversity@ku.edu
  • University Ombuds Office | 785-864-7261 or ombuds@ku.edu
  • Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access  | 785-864-6414, ioa@ku.edu.
  • Counseling and Psychological Services | 785-864-2277
  • Legal Services for Students | 785-864-5665, legals@ku.edu
  • CARE Coordinator | 785-864-9255 or care@ku.edu

There is much to be done. It will take all of us, with a common understanding of the pain and the challenges, to deliver on the promise of equality, liberty and justice for all. 

Doug and Barb

Douglas A. Girod

Barbara A. Bichelmeyer
Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor