A Message from President Botstein

April 22, 2021


To the Bard College community:

Last May I wrote to the Bard community about the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, the killing—by two civilians—of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, and the murder (once again by police officers sworn to uphold the law), of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky.

This week a Minnesota jury handed down guilty verdicts to former police officer Derek Chauvin in the case of George Floyd. Let us hope that this marks the start of a new era that brings to an end the long-standing racism in our criminal justice system, including our police departments, courts, and prisons. The recent verdict demonstrates the need for accountability and justice in all the tragic acts of violence that have occurred since George Floyd's death, including the police killing of Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio on the very day the Chauvin verdicts were delivered. We must reduce the violence and cruelty that inhabit America's systems of policing and criminal justice. But to bring racism to an end we must learn compassion and empathy; we must practice inclusion.

Colleges and universities are places of learning. They privilege language as the proper means of human interaction and reject violence. We therefore have a role to play in diminishing the use of force in society and politics and promoting knowledge, freedom, and justice using speech as action.

To uphold and expand the college's efforts to support members of the Bard community, several Bard offices are collaborating to underscore the importance of this moment, and pursue and participate in the national conversation on criminal justice and policing reform. To this end, the counseling center, the chaplaincy, and the office of equity and inclusion on the Bard campus are organizing workshops and panel discussions and holding space for members of the Bard community to come together and support each other.

With best wishes,

Leon Botstein

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