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A Message from the President

Dear all,

After reading the news of George Floyd’s death, I am horrified. And I wish I could say I was surprised. As the days have gone by, and we see video, and hear more from witnesses and his family, the news continues to be grim. The images and the story bring back so many other incidents—the violent deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and what happened in Central Park with Christian Cooper. These events are all too common in our country, historically and today.

From shouts of “hands up” reminding us of Michael Brown, to the gut-wrenching plea of “I can’t breathe” that will forever bring up memories of Eric Garner, this is all too terrifyingly familiar. Like after the death of Sandra Bland, the community is expressing outrage over the injustices that continue to occur in our communities. We have heard before that things will change, but this is one of those weeks when I can’t help but feel that things have not changed.

At these times I worry about colleagues and neighbors. Are they afraid to go on a run by themselves? I worry about students, who may be wondering, could this happen to me? And I worry for the fragile fabric of our community, which—acknowledging our national and own institutional history—we are trying, with great effort, to strengthen.

That all of this is coming at a time when our nation should be standing together to fight a powerful and elusive virus makes it all the more devastating—particularly as we know that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are disproportionately dying from COVID-19, and Asians and Asian Americans have experienced increased discrimination during this pandemic. Tragedies like the death of George Floyd remind us that we still have an equally insidious and lethal force—racism—tearing our social fabric.

I do not have an answer for how to keep this from happening in our world. But we might each ask ourselves how we can help end the cycles of violence that we see perpetuated against members of our human family. Wherever you are physically in the world right now, you might call a friend. Talk about the pain you are feeling, or offer words of strength if you can. Reach out to one of the many organizations that are developing a response to the violence committed against George Floyd and so many others. Each one of these black lives mattered. We need to say that.

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
VASSAR COLLEGE
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604
@EHBVassar