Everyone Has a Role to Play
I can’t express the pain I feel about the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This tragedy reinforces that everyone has a role to play in creating a society that values and practices equality and justice for all. We can get there.
UAPD Chief Steve Gahagans and I are of like mind in wanting to ensure that everyone interacting with law enforcement is treated with the compassion, civility and respect they deserve. We owe that to anyone who steps foot on campus - or off campus and into our community, for that matter - to treat people fairly and equally. I know Mayor Lioneld Jordan and Fayetteville Chief of Police Mike Reynolds and his officers feel the same. Our police departments do an excellent job of keeping our community safe.
Policing, though, is only one touch point where bias and systemic inequality may appear. We can make a difference by working even harder at the University of Arkansas to promote an inclusive environment where equity, opportunity, representation and civility are not just valued, but practiced and rewarded. That takes more than observation. It takes leading by example and action.
We have high expectations for our campus community. We are on this planet for a short time and we should do everything we can to make that time meaningful and to help one another. As a university we educate not only our students but each other. Sometimes that learning includes having difficult conversations to better understand other perspectives. As our core values reflect, better understanding of our shared humanity is the foundation of our mission to build a better world. That includes caring about the safety, health and well-being of all of those around us.
It's difficult to find the right words in a time like this, to give comfort to the community and reaffirm that our values have not changed. I can’t speak for the African American community, or other communities of color, or anyone who has experienced discrimination, but I can pledge to listen, learn and lead by example and action. Which is what we all must do.
Joe Steinmetz, Ph.D.