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Celebrating Juneteenth at the University of Delaware

A message from President Dennis Assanis to the University of Delaware community

Editor's note: President Dennis Assanis sent the following message to the University community.

Dear UD Community,

One-hundred and fifty-five years ago, on June 19th, Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to deliver news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War. Today, the celebration of “Juneteenth” marks this important milestone in the history of the Black community and the entire United States.

In recognition of Juneteenth, the University of Delaware will suspend classes and all other operations on Friday, June 19. Only essential employees should report to work; those required to work will earn a compensatory day. I invite all members of our community to take this opportunity to reflect on the historic significance of Juneteenth, learn more about both past and ongoing struggles to end discrimination against Black people, and recommit ourselves to fully living up to our nation’s founding ideals of justice and equality. Several local events and resources are listed below. Of note, Delaware Gov. John Carney announced earlier today [June 18] that the state of Delaware will close state offices in honor of Juneteenth.

Our commitment to social justice has taken on new urgency on Juneteenth this year. Protests nationwide are demanding an end to racism and prejudice, demands that are given fresh force with each new tragedy, such as the death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta less than a week ago. These deeply disturbing incidents serve as a clear and unequivocal reminder that Black Lives Matter, and we support the basic human rights agenda of this visionary movement at UD.

At 8:46 a.m. EDT, Friday, I ask you to join me in silence and reflection for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This is the length of time that George Floyd suffered under the knee of a police officer before he died, stirring the nation’s conscience about the injustices endured by the Black community for more than 400 years. During this time, the University website and social media channels will also go silent.

In recent weeks, I have listened to the disheartened and frustrated voices in our community, and I, too, am impatient with the pace of change in our society. Diversity and equity have always been central tenets of my personal values and my career in education, and I am committed to continue building a more inclusive culture here at UD. This requires a broad, collective and sustained effort. As I have said, we must — and we will — do better as a community, and this is our shared responsibility.

With renewed vigor, we are taking the following actions, among others:

  • Mandate diversity training for all students, which will be expanded to faculty and staff, as well;
  • Thoughtfully assess and revamp our faculty and staff search processes with data-driven insights, so we can continue the growth in the numbers of Black faculty and staff;
  • Enhance our positive trajectory in recruiting, retaining and leading to success a diverse student body;
  • Continue the UD Police Department’s commitment to high-quality training, transparency, accountability, community outreach and education to ensure the safety of our community;
  • Initiate a thorough review process of naming considerations for buildings and facilities around the UD campus; input from historians and others will help develop a set of recommend actions and guidelines going forward;
  • Plan a series of dialogues and listening sessions throughout the upcoming academic year, involving multiple and various audiences, including students, faculty and staff;
  • Continue building and strengthening the University’s diversity programs and human capital;
  • Cultivate new fundraising for social justice initiatives on campus.

I sincerely wish that reflection and dialogue, by themselves, could end racism. They will not. But they are essential and valuable elements to help revive our spirit and strengthen our resolve for the actions necessary to continue bending the long moral arc of the universe toward justice.

Sincerely,

Dennis Assanis, President

 

Events, resources relevant to Juneteenth and social justice

Learn about Juneteenth at juneteenth.com, Delaware Juneteenth and the African American History Blog.

Addressing Racism: Advancing Justice in Times of Crisis — UD’s Lerner Diversity Council and the Women’s Leadership Initiative are co-hosting this webinar at 9-10:30 a.m. Friday, June 19. This event will continue as planned. Registration is free and open to the public.

Delaware Gov. John Carney will host a live online discussion about Juneteenth — Event will be at 11 a.m. Friday. Participants will be Dr. Reba Hollingsworth, Vice Chair of the Delaware Heritage Commission; local historian Sylvester Woolford; Dr. Donna Patterson, Chair of the Department of History, Political Science, and Philosophy at Delaware State University; and Dr. David Young, Executive Director of the Delaware Historical Society. Available on Gov. Carney's Facebook page, or at de.gov/live.

Social Justice Action-Planning — This workshop on June 22 is designed to introduce participants to the ideas of race, racism, and oppression, as well as tangible means of taking action for social justice goals. Register here.

Talking About Race — A web portal created by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

LinkedIn courses — Becoming a stronger ally and having inclusive conversations.

Bryan Stevenson — Q&A with the civil-rights lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative regarding the frustration behind the George Floyd protests. Stevenson was the UD Commencement speaker for the Class of 2016.

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