Rockhurst University Staff, Faculty, Student Statements on Recent Deaths of George Floyd and Others

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Campus and Pergola

The news of recent deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of law enforcement officers, including that of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, has again brought issues of justice, equity and prejudice to the forefront of American life. Rockhurst University President the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J., and a number of student and faculty organizations have responded. Find each below.

Thoughts on the Death of George Floyd, A Message on Pentecost 2020
Official Student Senate Statement Regarding the Murder of George Floyd
Statement from the Student Activities Board
Statement from the Rockhurst University Black Student Union
A Message of Solidarity from the Rockhurst University Faculty Senate


Thoughts on the Death of George Floyd, A Message on Pentecost 2020

Today is Pentecost. For many Christians, it is the birthday of their Church and would be the occasion for a great celebration. Yet, our nation needs this time to mourn the tragic death of George Floyd, a citizen and an African American man. At Pentecost, we ordinarily commemorate the descending of God’s Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus, after his Ascension, to renew the face of the earth; yet, this Pentecost, we must be compelled to atone for scorching the earth with our original sin of racism.

In the history of our country, racism is so pervasive and our repeated acts of atonement are shallow and insincere. Has the death of George Floyd become but another occasion when we feign sorrow? Will he be the latest example of how we anesthetize ourselves with words calling for order, dialogue and calm?  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned us about our addictive behavior. In his “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King challenged “…the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…”   
  
Justice calls for a right relationship. It has three components. There must be a right relationship with our God, with our neighbor, and with our earth. Today, our flawed relationship with all three components is being exposed. And, COVID-19 is confronting us on two fronts. It has revealed to us that we continue to betray our relationship with our environment as well as with our neighbors, especially our sisters and brothers of color, who are more vulnerable, have fewer resources, inconsistent access to good health care, and disproportionately suffer the effects of environmental degradation.

During this pandemic, we have been asked to practice “social distancing” so we can “flatten the curve.” But, we have forgotten the use of another metaphor. It is the “uneven playing field.” We have practiced on it since 1619.  That was the year that 30 slaves were brought to Jamestown in the colony of Virginia. In total, 12.5 million people from the African continent would be taken from their homeland and brought elsewhere; two million would perish. And 400,000 would be brought to the United States through what would be classified as The Middle Passage. It was an economic enterprise.

These slaves taught the colonists how to grow rice. They were forced to pick cotton. It would account for 50% of our nation’s exports and 66% of the world’s supply. The same slaves built plantations, our monuments and our railroads. Nikole Hannah-Jones, in “Democracy’s False Ideals,” argues that through their prophetic voices, their service in every war we have fought, their protection of our nation, and their bringing forth the economic prosperity and growth we enjoy, we can conclude that “blacks are the most American.”      
 
However, in the United States, blacks are excluded from or limited to a share in the resources they provide. Instead, whites, holding both power and privilege, have made a practice of enslaving them, punishing them, torturing them, lynching them, profiling them, and incarcerating them. Is this how we practice justice? How is this a right relationship with our sisters and brothers?   
 
Despite the treatment whites have provided, the black community of our nation continues to bring forth the ideals we espouse as a nation. Their current protests in our streets is a selfless act of generosity. Do not let the unlawful actions of the few distract from and silence the peaceful and prophetic witness of the many. At a time when congregating in large numbers is dangerous to your health and personal well-being, the black community is trying to promote our country’s foundational ideals and save members of the white community from ourselves. In the Pentecost celebration, we hear of the tongues of flame coming upon the disciples of Jesus so they renew the face of the earth. They are empowered to bring about the kingdom of God where there is a unified voice and effort for the marginalized, forgotten and disenfranchised.   
     
I am a white, Roman Catholic, Jesuit priest, who serves as the president of Rockhurst University. I wish to replace the usual effort of calling for dialogue, order and calm with: 1.) a profound apology for my own racism; 2.) an acknowledgment of my silence and the frequent silence of my Church and community to which I belong; and 3.) the commitment to do everything I can, in my position, to bring about that right relationship.

However, I cannot do this alone. To our companions of color, will you consider allowing me to earn your forgiveness and your accompaniment?  To our white companions, will you join me in becoming fully and correctly informed about the system of white supremacy constructed for our comfort and in the difficult, daily work of dismantling this system within ourselves and within our society? Only together, in right relationship with one another, with the earth and with God, maytrue justice reign.

Thomas B. Curran, S.J.
President


Official Student Senate Statement Regarding the Murder of George Floyd

To the Rockhurst University Community: 

Rockhurst Student Senate is heartbroken and upset by the senseless murder of George Floyd. We are called upon, not only as Rockhurst students, but as humans to stand in solidarity with our brothers, sisters, and nonbinary peers who are most affected by the systemic injustices. The unfortunate reality is that racial inequality, racial oppression, and continued systemic injustices have and will affect members of our community every day. We understand and recognize that our words alone will not lessen the pain and outrage felt by our community over the murder of George Floyd. However, we feel it is important to refuse to sit quietly and ignore what it is going on. We hear you. We see you. We have a voice. It is our duty to use our voice to speak up and be a part of the change. 

Racist acts of violence have been seared into our memory: Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Antwon Rose, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, and Rodney King are just a few of the Black lives that have been unjustly cut short and ripped away from us a result of hate-driven brutality. 

As representatives of the student body, we want to make it explicitly clear that we stand in support of our African American and black students, and other students of color who are so often impacted by prejudice, discrimination, and racism within our society. Student Senate would also like to express their support for Campus Security and other security and police officers that serve our respective communities. We appreciate their efforts, especially during these challenging times. It is our responsibility to love and care for every human being, regardless of race, to actively educate ourselves and our community, and to remain committed to this movement. 

We condemn any and all forms of racialized systemic oppression against marginalized communities. We are aware that many of you are attending demonstrations to protest the murder of George Floyd. We simply ask that you take care of yourself and those around you, ensuring that you are safe and protesting peacefully.  We also encourage members of our community to use their social platforms to call for reform and justice, by donating, calling, or starting a discussion about overt and covert racism. The first step to combating racism and changing our society begins when we start to educate ourselves and begin to change our mindset to go beyond empathy. 

We want to ensure that you are aware of resources that are available to you at this time:

-  Chief Inclusion Officer: leslie.doyle@rockhurst.edu

-  Dean of Students: matthew.quick@rockhurst.edu

-  Student Success: mindy.pettegrew@rockhurst.edu

-  Counseling Center: elbert.darden@rockhurst.edu  

-  Campus Ministry: bill.kriege@rockhurst.edu

We are a student government for our peers, and we stand by George Floyd and the countless other individuals in our communities and around our country that have lost their lives simply because of their race or ethnic background. We all have a duty to listen to our peers, to provide immediate resources and support, promote positive change, and to enact policies in our community and at our university that combat racism and prejudice. 

Further, if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, Student Senate is here to listen and talk with you. 

For and with others, 

-        The Rockhurst University Student Senate


Statement from the Student Activities Board

Our Student Activities Board holds the mission to commit our time to intentionally caring for all students. Through diverse and inclusive programming, we hope to enhance our student experience as a whole. This responsibility is not dismissed when students are off campus. Under all circumstances, we work to serve as a support system for the community to promote prosperity and success. If this is inhibited, we must do all we can to seek out how to better our organization to provide for all students. 

In light of current events including but not limited to the murder of George Floyd and countless other black Americans and the history behind such cruel acts, it is our duty and responsibility to take action. We are called to inform ourselves on what is happening both in our community and across the nation, ensuring to not fall silent in the face of injustice. To dismiss this call to action acts in favor of the oppressor, contributing to the magnitude of harm that comes with privilege. On behalf of anyone in our community who has experienced racial injustice, it is crucial to use our platform to speak up. We support our companions of color and will work to do all that we can in the fight for justice. It is not enough to merely post about it. 

SAB is committed to this mission through our Coffeehouse acts in particular. This upcoming school year we have planned a variety of acts (comedian, lyricist, and speaker) who address racial injustice. Through this, we hope to use our resources to increase awareness on campus and amplify the voices of people of color. We are also working to expand the diversity and inclusivity within our organization. This is a fundamental part of our role to serve all students in the intended manner. By partnering with various on-campus organizations, we will work to ensure that all students are welcomed and accepted within SAB. Justice is long overdue and as the Student Activities Board, we are called as advocates. 

If you find yourself with any questions, comments, or concerns, SAB is here to listen. 

With Respect,

  • The Rockhurst University Student Activities Board Executive Board

Instagram: @rockhurstsab

Email: Natalia Kruszczak, President kruszczakn@hawks.rockhurst.edu

            J.T. Cornelius, Vice President  corneliusj@hawks.rockhurst.edu        

           Carter Harris, Secretary/Treasurer

           Holly Sullivan, Concert Chair

            Sarah Hughes, Membership Chair

            Jessica Umulisa, Spirit Chair

            Aubry Buckman, Coffee house

            Ashley Davis, Special Events

           Jenna Dieatrick, Public Relations

            Amy Chen, Late-night Chair


Statement from the Rockhurst University Black Student Union

To the Rockhurst community:

Rockhurst University’s Black Student Union is grieving the losses of the most recent victims of police brutality: George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The unjust deaths of Mr. Floyd and Ms. Taylor add to the despair that we feel in our hearts. It is utterly sickening that there is a longer list of names attached to the beautiful Black souls lost to the ugly monster known as racism and white supremacy. Unfortunately, both are embedded in the foundation of this country, and this truth cannot be denied. This country was built on the backs of African slaves, and it continuously turns its back on their descendants, who have had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps without having boots. The actions of the involved officers were despicable and simply declaring that these are isolated incidents is not enough to say. We were relieved to hear the news about the other three officers being charged for their involvement in the death of George Floyd, as well as the updated charge for the main officer, Derek Chauvin. We will continue to follow as they are tried in court.

Nonetheless, there are students in our Rockhurst community, including BSU members, that have been directly affected by actions fueled by racism, some have been on first-hand accounts. Even in Kansas City, there are overwhelming accounts of people who have been victimized by racism. This is not something that we can simply stop watching or reading. We live in it. We live through it. We do not get to turn it off when we are done being upset about it. The pain stays with us, and we can only hope that it subsides. Thankfully, we live to tell our stories, but hundreds of others are not afforded the opportunity. I urge you all to learn about the deaths of Cameron ‘CD’ Lamb, Ryan Stokes, and Donnie Sanders, all three who were Kansas City natives. All three were Black men who unknowingly etched their names onto the sad side of history.

However, there is hope. Bringing awareness to the issues is the valuable first step. I know that social media has been the greatest contributor for reaching the masses. However, there are subsequent steps required to bring about change. Endorsement of organizations that are dedicated to the cause is an important way to support. On Facebook, there is a group called “itstime4justice” (all lowercase), compiled of Kansas City community members that post information about gatherings or town hall meetings to produce positive local change. I encourage you all to take time to join the page and keep yourselves up to date about those advocating for justice, even if you do not reside in Kansas City. Furthermore, you can lend your support by signing petitions that call for justice to be served. There is a petition out for Breonna Taylor, calling for all involved officers to be arrested and charged, as well as ways to commemorate her birthday on June 5th. As always, money is the most influential item in any situation. Whether you donate to Go Fund Me pages, dine at black-owned restaurants (list found here), or even boycott certain companies, providing financial support has proven to be effective time and time again. By no means is this a comprehensive list of ways to get behind the cause, but by providing this, I hope that this inspires you to get out there and be of service to this movement.

In times like this, our core value, Magis, rings true more than ever before. For those who may not be affected by these atrocities, you have to step outside of yourself to understand how to be an ally. You have to assess yourself internally, and how you may have contributed to the oppressive system. It will take more willpower than you may realize, but to enact genuine change, it must be done. It takes conscious effort to right these wrongs. For those who are affected, it will take strength to open yourself up to those who are genuine about standing alongside you. It is a struggle, but ultimately, it is necessary. No battles are won by those who fight by themselves. This is a collective effort, and it needs everyone to dig deeper and exert more of themselves to succeed. I can only hope that more people who are ready for this can reveal themselves, so we know that all is not lost.

Peace and blessings,

Evalynn Lomax and Rockhurst University Black Student Union


A Message of Solidarity from the Rockhurst University Faculty Senate

Companions,

The Rockhurst University Faculty Senate would like to offer its gratitude to our companions who have expressed with such clarity and honesty their thoughts, heartbreak, grief, and outrage following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless other African-American citizens who have fallen victim to police brutality and systemtic racism. We stand in solidarity with our companions in these statements as they are a true expression of Reflection and Discernment in which we must reflect on our own lived experience in the world and listen to the experience of others. 

We are also grateful for the contemplation in action that our companions have expressed through the commitments that they have made to become agents of transformation. We stand in solidarity with our companions by making a commitment that Black Lives Matter. This commitment is where we as a faculty take responsibility to acknowledge and address racism when we encounter it on campus. A commitment to strive for social justice and equality in the work that we do: the classes we teach, the committees we serve on, as well as through our interactions with students, colleagues, and the community. 

We seek to fulfill our commitment in the spirit of magis by striving to do more.  We will take action to learn by listening to those who are disproportionately subject to harm and pain, and seek conversation in ways that are mindful of this inequality. We will do more to reflect on our own experiences, our connection to this problem and what we can do to effect change. 

We also express our sorrow: sorrow for the victims of structural racism, and sorrow for not doing more sooner to speak out and act against it. 

Over the course of the next year, the Faculty Senate will discuss and determine specific actions that can be taken with the goal of effecting change.  Through this process, we will seek to include the voice of the marginalized and strive to create a more diverse and inclusive community.   

Collegially,

The Rockhurst University Faculty Senate