April 20, 2021
Dear University of Oregon community,
Like many of you, the announcement today of the verdict in the George Floyd murder case gave me some measure of relief, but not of comfort. While I have not watched gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial, I have watched and read enough to be convinced that former police officer Derek Chauvin’s horrific behavior in pinning George Floyd to the ground as he begged for breath is a textbook case of murder. I am gratified that the jury came to this same conclusion.
Nevertheless, I do not believe this is a moment for celebration. A man is dead; a family is without a beloved son, brother, and father. A nation has been traumatized. I would like to believe that today’s verdict is a turning point, and that in the future the criminal justice system will do better at providing Black men and women equal protection under the law. But we know that will not automatically be the case and that today’s verdict is just a step toward justice.
As a nation, we need to push ourselves to understand and address the root causes of brutality and racial bias among police officers before more innocent souls are lost. And it cannot be lost to us that racism is not a problem confined to rogue police officers. It is systemic, and it exists in many forms throughout our society and our institutions. These conversations and reflections—which we as a university have a role in leading—must then inform change, with our own graduates leading the way.
The provost and I, along with the University Senate, have previously announced a series of initiatives meant to weed out systemic racism at the University of Oregon and to study what can be done to reduce disparities here, in our community, and in the nation as a whole. This starts with me, and with you. It starts with all of us reflecting on what each of us can do to be part of the solution.
So, while today’s verdict brings some solace, it does not and should not lessen our resolve. And it certainly does not take away the tragedy of George Floyd’s murder or the pain of knowing that these senseless acts continue, including as recently as last week with the death of Daunte Wright. If you see someone who is troubled or in crisis, please reach out to offer support or help them find assistance. There are numerous resources available on campus, many listed below, to provide support, counseling, and engagement.
I am looking forward to our coming together—both virtually and in person—to continue our work toward a better society.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law
- Black Lives Matter: Campus and Community Resources, Information, & Messages
- Counseling Services (students)
- DEI Student Resources
- Employee Assistance Program
- Eugene Springfield NAACP
- L.A.C.E. Resources (Love Authenticity. Courage. Empathy.) — includes faculty, student, and wellness resources
- Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center