Eastern Michigan University President James Smith Statement on Chauvin Guilty Verdict

These past several weeks the world has focused on the trial of Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis Police Officer, now found guilty in the murder of George Floyd. Although this verdict cannot bring back Mr. Floyd, I am hopeful it is a critical step toward creating a society where Black Lives Matter.

Although the verdict against Derek Chauvin is a step in moving us forward, the reality is we have much work to do across all of our structures, organizations, and institutions to eradicate systemic racial inequities and injustices. Holding Derek Chauvin accountable will not eradicate the racism woven throughout the fabric of our society. The murder of George Floyd, and more recently the killings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, and countless other Black and Brown people, is the tip of the iceberg. This is not only a problem within policing and our criminal justice system. We see it in the attack on voting rights, the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, inequities throughout our education system, and all levels of society. 

We must own that racism, hate, and injustice are present in our campus environment as well. I hear the frustration, anger, and demand for change. I hear your pain and see the daily struggles. You are right when you say words only go so far and action is needed. We can and must do better. As a University. As a nation. As individuals and communities.

Eastern Michigan University is working on several initiatives involving students and employees that move from words to action. They provide broader support for diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice efforts on campus. Initial actions are designed to: 

  • Improve employee awareness and training about unconscious bias and systemic factors that contribute to racism, including a training and education initiative that begins on Friday led by Human Resources, as well as the ongoing work of the Faculty Senate Task Force on Campus Climate, Race and Diversity Issues for faculty and lecturers;
  • Reduce the equity gap in student retention and graduation rates among racial and ethnic groups through curricular, co-curricular, and student support efforts; 
  • Enhance our engagement with the reinvigorated Police Oversight Committee; and  
  • Institute programming that further centers our core values of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice into all aspects of the campus experience.

The safety and well being of our campus community is of the utmost importance. If you are in need of support at this time, I encourage you to reach out to Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). On weekdays, students can make an appointment to talk to a counselor by calling 734.487.1118 during business hours or emailing counseling.services@emich.edu. Students may also access CAPS’ after-hours phone support in the evenings and weekends by calling that same number. 

For 172 years, the diverse voices and experiences of Eastern Michigan University have been our defining strengths. Each of us must continue to work together to ensure diversity, infuse equity and inclusion, and stand for justice in all facets of our University community.

James Smith, Ph.D.

April 20, 2021

Written by:
James Smith

Contact:
Geoff Larcom
glarcom@emich.edu
734-487-4400