Friday, April 23, 2021

Dear BVU Community:

We are part of a society where the lives of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color continue to be blighted by structural racism, lack of opportunity, health disparities, and direct violence by agents of the state and others. Universities, including our own, have for too long been complacent or complicit. The differential valuing of life, of achievement, of opportunity, and of intellectual and cultural contributions based on which racialized group one is thought to be a member of is manifestly unjust. It compels us to repeat, internalize, and act upon the affirmation that Black lives matter. Black lives do matter, and our collective practices, discourses, policies, and laws must reflect this. Black lives matter for the same reason that everyone’s life matters; yet we are compelled to affirm that Black lives matter precisely because institutions, practices, laws, and behaviors have so long denied it.

In support of the Black Lives Movement and in support of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color everywhere, we say Black Lives Matter. We recognize that to achieve our vision of developing an environment that promotes cultural sensitivity, humility, and understanding, which provides all students with the opportunity to celebrate diversity and self-identity, we must add our voices to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Although some people may ask why we do not proclaim that all lives matter, the indisputable and uncomfortable truth is that history provides a cornucopia of evidence that the lives of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have not mattered as much as White lives. And there are ample reasons why saying that all lives matter is hurtful and tantamount to erasure.

While we have been watching the coverage of the court trial and subsequent jury’s ruling in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd, we, like many others, are reminded of the countless Black and Brown men, women, boys, and girls killed by law enforcement officers and those "acting" as law enforcement officers, to include—but not limited to— Daunte Wright, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Ma'Khia Bryant, Andre Hill, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Trevor Seever, Angelo Quinto, Ernie Serrano, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Jacqueline Salyers, David McAtee, Manuel “Mannie” Elijah Ellis, Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, Botham Shem Jean, Charleena Chavon Lyles, Philando Castile, India Kager, Freddie Carlos Gray Jr., Natasha McKenna, Tanisha N. Anderson, Eric Garner, Gabriella Monique Nevare…and countless others. Furthermore, we have also learned of the tragic killings of Lexi, Monika Diamond, Nina Pop, Dominique “Rem'mie” Fells, Riah Milton, Brian “Egypt’ Powers, Brayla Stone, Merci Mack, Shaki Peters, Bree Black, Dior H. Ova, Tony McDade, Queasha D. Hardy, Aja Raquell Rhone-Spears, Lea Rayshon Daye, Kee Sam, Mia Green, Aerrion Burnett, Brooklyn Deshuna, Angel Unique, Skylar Heath, Asia Jynae Foster, Chae’Meshia Simms, and Courtney “Eshay” Key, whose experiences as Black transgender people are often erased from such conversations.

In recent days, 81 anti-protest laws have been proposed in 34 states. However, the data suggests that 96.3 percent of events involved no property damage or police injuries, and in 97.7 percent of events, no injuries were reported among participants, bystanders, or police. Although “...and justice for all” may seem like a will-o'-the-wisp, we must still persist.

We recognize the pain, fear, and anger many within the BVU community are experiencing right now. The BVU Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), within the Division of Student Success, stands firmly in our vision to develop an environment that promotes cultural sensitivity, humility, and understanding which provides all students with the opportunity to celebrate diversity and self-identity. We must continue to develop a more robust understanding of police brutality, structural racism, and the impact of both of these social ills on individuals, families, and communities, and show our commitment to eradicating these ills through our actions.

To all our students, staff, faculty, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community members, we stand with you and with all who stand against racism, “othering,” xenophobia, police brutality, and all forms of injustice. We look forward to continued CDI programming to support these needs, and we will do whatever we can to provide an inclusive, safe, and supportive environment for our students and campus community.

Moving forward, we offer the following support and resources:

Our Diversity Fellows are here to offer support and advocacy for our students and campus community. They are trained faculty and staff that have been through a year-long educational program committed to diversity and inclusion practices.

Along with the Diversity Fellows, additional resources include but are not limited to:

In the coming months, the Division of Student Success staff, along with the Diversity Fellows and other constituent groups, will be developing ongoing programs, policies, and practices devoted to creating safe spaces for difficult conversations, educational programs to address intolerance and advocacy for civility and equity. BVU upholds our values of respect and inclusiveness where we foster an appreciation for all persons by providing an open and inclusive environment where all are treated with respect.

We want you to know that your BVU family is thinking of you. Beyond the surge of police brutality, hate crimes, bias incidents, and racist bullying, the world is battling a pandemic. We know these circumstances and more affect you all, and you may be experiencing a mix of emotions that change daily. Along with the resources noted above, we’ve established the Student Support webpage for more information on items like BVU Counseling Services, the CARES Act, and more.

BVU stands united by our mission and vision. We are inspired by our obligation to educate our students through service while making a positive difference in the lives of others.

With the Utmost Sincerity,
Joel Berrien, Jr., Ed.D.
Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion