UA community response to recent tragedies

  • May 31st, 2020

Message from President Stuart R. Bell:

Dear UA Community:

Today my heart is heavy as I reflect on recent tragedies, deaths and incidents of racialized violence across our country. The death of George Floyd is just the latest example of the challenges that our nation faces and a somber reminder of the disproportionate impact such actions have on so many members of our community.

At The University of Alabama our core principles include fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect for every member of our community, whether we are together in Tuscaloosa or engaging virtually throughout the world. Bias, violence and acts of hate contradict those values. As a community, we must remain united in our resolve to address such injustices in meaningful ways. Our University, preparing some of the brightest minds in the country for leadership in an increasingly diverse and global society, must be a beacon of hope, equality and inclusivity.

Please remember there are a variety of campus resources available to support you, including the Employee Assistance Program, Student Care and Well-Being, the University’s Counseling Center, the UA Title IX Office and the University of Alabama Police Department. In addition, in the coming days and months, our Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will be continuing its series “Come Sit at My Table,” an opportunity to share and learn about a number of issues related to diversity.

As president, I pledge to continue promoting a safe and respectful environment for every member of our campus community, and to support those who are particular targets of hate and racism. At UA, we will continue to do more and be better because of the efforts and kindness of our incredible students, faculty and staff. Remember, we are Still Tide Together.

Stuart R. Bell
President

 

Message from SGA President Demarcus Joiner:

Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the horrifying killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. Each of these stories has forced us to confront centuries of social injustices that have plagued our nation. As President of the Student Government Association, it is my duty to serve as an advocate for all voices at the University, especially when many students are hurting and longing for answers. Today I am speaking to offer encouragement and to address the roles we all must play in order to move forward.

To the students of The University of Alabama, I ask for you to do one thing: listen. Listen to understand; Listen to have educated conversations; Listen to make our community and world more inclusive for all. This is not the time to point fingers, but a time to wrap our arms around each other and begin to develop plans to ensure that our campus and communities are inclusive, equal, and fair for all.

We must, as a community, use our voices to stand with and become allies with those who have been historically marginalized. Continue to advocate for fair and equal treatment of all citizens and members of our community. Let’s use every medium available to advocate for justice, whether that is having important conversations with your friends and family, posting on your social media, or speaking out every single time you see an injustice happening right in front of you. I ask that you utilize the gift of empathy. Put yourself in your fellow classmates’, sorority sisters’, or fraternity brothers’ shoes, and understand that the world is not the same for all of us.

Speaking as a black man in America, I understand what it feels like to endure the hardships, struggles, and injustices that frequently impact people of color. I know the pain you feel. I have had to wipe away tears, listen to music, and pray. I ask that you stand strong, be courageous, and continue to fight for what is right. I understand we have had some weary days and still have some hills to climb. As we advocate for equity and equality, let us remember to do it in such a way that will keep us safe and ensure our voices are heard. I ask that you all engage in dialogue with those around you who struggle to understand the injustices that minorities experience by creating positive, open spaces where genuine, productive conversations can occur.

To all incoming students, I want you to know that we at The University of Alabama strive every day to make sure that this campus is inclusive for all. We have fallen short at times, but in those moments, we have learned and pressed forward, determined not to repeat history. I want you to know that I will continue to fight every day to ensure that your experience and environment is safe and transformative. I want you to know that The University of Alabama community is one big family — a family that I am proud to say I belong to. I ask that you come to this campus with an open mind and an open heart. You may want to believe that you do not see color, but you do. We all do. Over the next several years, you will have the opportunity to engage in many meaningful experiences, and they will be made even more meaningful if you open your heart to those around you. Look for experiences that intentionally expose you to people and ideas different from yourself.

Finally, I ask that we come together as one and continue to positively change the world. Change is not easy; it will take time. I ask that each of you be willing to be an active part of this change, to work every day to make our campus a more inclusive and understanding environment. I am here to serve each and every student at The University of Alabama, and I will. I ask that you serve your fellow classmates with respect, kindness, and love. This is OUR campus, OUR city, and OUR world. We have the chance to make it better, let’s not miss the opportunity.

Best and Roll Tide,

Demarcus Joiner
109th SGA President

 

Message from Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Associate Provost Christine Taylor:

Dear Campus Community:

The recent murder of George Floyd took me back to August 2019. I had just completed a presentation when I received a call from my niece.

“Daddy is transitioning,” she said.

The optimist in me asked, “Are they transporting him to a new facility?”

My brother had been hospitalized for the past week; however, he had been showing signs of improvement. But my niece only reiterated her statement, this time with greater force and pleading for me to listen to her words.

“Auntie,” she said, “daddy is transitioning.”

Finally, I heard her and, in that moment and in that public place, I began to scream and cry uncontrollably as I could not believe that a man who had been such an important part of my life—my big brother, my Black superhero, my greatest advocate—was leaving me. He was my big brother. He was me and I was him; we were inextricably bound. How could we do holidays again without him? Who would provide me with loving big-brother advice? The pain of that day still resides deep within my heart. I still weep often, I still miss him daily, and there are moments that I debate within my mind about how it could be that this man is gone.

Coping with Trauma

As horrible as that experience was and continues to be for me, it frames in a different way the sense of loss I am feeling about the most recent rash of deaths of unarmed Americans who are Black. Fortunately, I did not have to witness my brother’s transition from this world repeatedly on a news reel or social media. I did not have to watch as men sat on top of his handcuffed body, his face pressed into the filthy street crying out for our mom. I did not lose him while he was jogging. I did not lose him as he was purchasing a gun. He was not taken from me by a botched police invasion into his home while he slept in his own bed.

While I was spared that additional pain, I am keenly aware, as an African American woman, that had it not been for the grace of God, the circumstances of my brother’s departure could have well been similar to that of countless other unarmed Americans who are Black. This is part of the burden that you carry as an American who is Black. Always wondering, always praying, always holding your breath, always preparing for the worst around things that other Americans take for granted.

It begins with the “The Talk,” the words spoken by our parents in an attempt to literally save our lives. Such guidance warns us about the inherent dangers and threats that exist for us in society because we are Black. Warnings about the dangers of interactions with the police, for example, have been passed down generation after generation from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters, in homes, churches and other community spaces. This wisdom has been compiled from far too many experiences with unprotested deaths of unarmed Americans who are Black dying at the hands of police. However, while Mr. Floyd was compliant, lessons from “The Talk” did not save his life.

These experiences are horrific for those who are “woke” to the cumulative stress associated with loss after loss after loss of innocent lives, and injustice and un-justice in our judicial system. Part of what we are witnessing is a nation of people who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD. For many, these aggregate losses and threats are so much more than single acts. Taken together, these losses are not only “very sad,” but also, for many of us, they are and will continue to be extremely personal, causing us to question even more our safety and security as Americans who are Black. Today, we and other Americans as well as people from around the world are in mourning for brothers and sisters whose lives have been lost unjustly. We are experiencing justified anger and outrage. Our challenge now is to channel this energy in a way to effect change. We must have change in this nation. As a campus community we must do all we can inside and outside of the classroom to plant seeds of social justice, seeds of change as we are a community preparing future leaders.

We all have entered this horrific national experience through different doors and view it with different lenses. If you are entering the experience with a desire to use your privilege to affect change, I encourage you to begin by learning about how to be an effective ally. This work is not easy nor seasonal, but rather it is necessary and must be consistent over time.

As our community along with the nation grapples with all that we have seen and experienced, there yet is another call for us to 1) courageously stand up to some difficult truths about our country; 2) understand the history of these difficult truths as context is everything; and 3) most importantly, be willing to act in order to effect change.

To help us deal with these emotions and chart a path forward, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion over the next weeks and months will host a series of virtual webinars and curated conversations about race in our country. We encourage your participation. Events for this week are listed below.

Virtual Vigil: Remembrance of Black Lives Lost to Racialized Violence
Thursday, June 4 at 6 p.m.

Come Sit at My Table: A Campus Conversation
Friday, June 5 at 1 p.m.

More resources can be found at Get Involved.

Stay well, stay safe and stay strong.

Christine Taylor, Ph.D.
Vice President and Associate Provost
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

 

Message from Director of Athletics Greg Byrne:

Over the last several days, we’ve taken the time to engage, listen and be present with our student-athletes, coaches and staff. We are aware and continue to be aware of the tragic circumstances that are going on in our country. What has transpired with the horrific deaths of unarmed African Americans, most recently George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, is beyond comprehension. They deserve justice. Our hearts are heavy for all of those who have suffered from racism and bigotry. Personally, I can’t say I understand the plight of those who have been subjected to these injustices, but I do have sincere compassion.

Our commitment to our student-athletes, our staff and our community goes far beyond competition. We are here to celebrate victories, but we are also here to support and extend a helping hand through life’s challenges.

It is important to us that we not only speak of the awareness but also engage with conversation and action.

We all have the ability to show love, grace, compassion, kindness, support and understanding for the people in our lives. It could be one person that you impact or it could be thousands. It does not matter the number. What matters is that we make a commitment to these actions.

How do we treat our family, our friends, our co-workers, the person that serves you coffee, the person who picks up your trash? Every person wants to feel valued, and each of us can make them feel valued.

I often tell our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans that college athletics, and sports in general, is one of the great unifiers. We are a melting pot of people, from all different backgrounds, and we come together as one. How special is that? Join us in supporting our student-athletes and people of color no matter the setting.

Greg Byrne

 

Message from Football Head Coach Nick Saban:

I am shocked and angered by the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. We’re at an important moment for our country, and now is the time for us to choose kindness, tolerance, understanding, empathy, and most importantly … it’s time to love each other. Every life is precious, and we must understand we have so many more things that unite us than divide us.

I’ve always been inspired and encouraged by examples set by those who came before us like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and so many others who devoted their lives to finding peaceful ways to rid our society of social inequities. As Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We are all part of this and we must banish these types of injustices in not just our country, but our world. The ultimate future of our nation is in our hands, and like the teams I’ve been privileged to coach, we must depend on and respect each other no matter our differences. We must come together as a society and treat one another with respect and dignity.

Nick Saban

 

A Statement from UAPD Chief John Hooks:

The University of Alabama Police Department stands together with every individual who is filled with agony, empathy and fear caused by the recent senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others. We stand with our campus community, made whole and made beautiful by the diversity we all embrace.

The disregard for human life is absolutely unacceptable and does not represent the values of our UAPD and the individuals who wear our badge at The University of Alabama.

As servants of our communities, we will continue to work ever harder to prevent these atrocities. We have a responsibility to hold ourselves and each other accountable.

We are dedicated to reinforcing the strong relationship between UAPD and the communities we serve. That relationship is bolstered through collaborative partnerships with other agencies and organizations. The women and men of UAPD are committed to serving our community with respect, courtesy and professionalism.

John Hooks

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.