President Elam sent a message to the campus community on today’s jury verdicts in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
Dear Occidental Community,
As you have undoubtedly heard, the jury in the case of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has reached guilty verdicts on all counts in the murder of George Floyd. These verdicts indeed represent a small step for justice in this country and one that we must recognize and appreciate. Notably, the trial featured testimony from the chief of police and other long-term police officers, willing to breach the traditionally all-too impenetrable blue wall of silence, as they confided that Chauvin grossly violated police conduct policy. This trial has been a taxing emotional journey, repeatedly bringing us all back in time to that fateful, horrific incident outside a grocery store that has reverberated around the world. Now this verdict stands as a sign that social change can occur and that our hopes for equity and justice, principles that not only Oxy but this country must rely on, can ultimately be achieved.
Still, one single decision does not erase centuries of injustice and trauma. Since testimony in the case began March 29, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo and at least 62 other people have died at the hands of police nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead. Hence, the verdict in this case calls on us to remember that this moment in time does not constitute an ending but, rather, a charge to continue to struggle against racism and injustice everywhere. When George Floyd died under Derek Chauvin’s knee, it impacted us fundamentally, deeply, tearing at the fibers that bind us all to our humanity. It spurred ongoing demands for actions and policies to achieve equity and justice and brought people of disparate ideologies and locations together to advocate for substantive change in America’s system of racial justice.
As we have followed this incident and subsequent trial over the past year, we all have experienced a wide range of emotions. I take this moment to remind our students of support services at Emmons Counseling, the Intercultural Community Center and the Dean of Students office. Staff and faculty can also reach out to our Employee Assistance Program for support.
Here at Oxy, this verdict arrived just as we are conducting the final interviews for a new Vice President for Equity and Justice and Chief Diversity Officer. This timing reminds us of all the work that we will undertake on this campus in the days and years to come. Our mission commits us to the pursuit of equity and justice as does this day and this verdict. With renewed energy and spirit, I hope and pledge that we can move forward in building the kind of campus culture and community that reflects these values.