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Standing together for justice

To the Campus Community,

This past week, like the rest of the nation, we have watched the painful events unfolding throughout the country following the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by Minneapolis police officers—adding another injustice to a long and sad list. The circumstances surrounding George Floyd’s death are not only painful, but unequivocally unacceptable. This tragic event has brought to the forefront, once again, important discussions on race and race-related issues — and fundamentally, the universal right of life and human dignity.

We cannot ignore the long history of intolerance and bias that has led to discrimination and violence against people of color, and especially against black men, in our country and in our communities. New York State, the North Country and SUNY Potsdam itself are not immune, and we must acknowledge that our campus community needs to do more to fight against bias and discrimination.

At the same time, we have come so far and made so many positive steps in recent years, thanks in no small part to student-led grassroots activism, supported and encouraged by allies among our faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders. There is still more to do, and the work of social justice is never truly complete. That makes it all the more frustrating and painful when we fall short.

Earlier today, an employee inappropriately shared an unapproved message to the University Police Facebook page, which criticized people who have “anti-police” viewpoints. First, let me be clear, this message does not reflect the views of the College or of the department, and I have directed an immediate investigation. Second, and just as important, we sincerely apologize. Each member of our campus community represents the College to a varying degree, but especially our sworn officers. We have a responsibility to our entire campus community to treat everyone with the same dignity and respect—and we have to acknowledge whenever we fall short, as happened today, and take steps to make things right immediately.

To all those who are hurting and angry, you have a right to be. We are committed to continuing to work toward change, both in our community and in our nation. It is incumbent upon us as an institution of higher education to lead by example and to bring people together to effect change. Accordingly, we invite you to join us for a campus virtual town hall later this week to provide a forum and to discuss what we as a campus community can do to make progress toward social justice, locally and nationally. Please keep an eye out for the invitation in the coming days.

In this time of strife, with the pandemic and injustices happening around us, we are stronger together and we must continue to reach out to voice our concerns and ask for help.  If you need assistance, the services of the Counseling Center, the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the Employee Assistance Program are available.

As we join the rest of the nation in sharing in the pains of these recent events, I invite the entire campus community to join me in extending very heartfelt condolences to the grieving family of George Floyd. Most importantly, I hope as members of our SUNY Potsdam community, we can reflect on how best we can contribute, individually and collectively, in enhancing civil discourse and addressing the racial injustices that exist in our society.

Sincerely,

Kristin G. Esterberg, Ph.D.
President
SUNY Potsdam