UB President Satish Tripathi released a statement Friday acknowledging the trauma experienced by members of the UB community during the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin is on trial for the May 2020 killing of Minneapolis native George Floyd. During an arrest, Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, while Floyd said “I can’t breathe.” Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Jury deliberations will begin Monday and can take hours or even weeks. Tripathi’s statement comes after three weeks of legal proceedings and ahead of the final verdict.
“Although we could have anticipated that these proceedings would prove emotionally draining for anyone following them, the deeply disturbing evidence and wrenching testimony have borne a heavier psychological toll on many of our Black students, colleagues, peers, friends and neighbors,” Tripathi wrote.
Tripathi says he empathizes with the desire of students, faculty and staff to affect positive change. He highlighted UB’s commitment to change through research, education and its communities while mentioning the effort, innovation, compassion and ingenuity needed to topple systemic racism.
“When I talk to our students, I hear anxiety, sadness and raw frustration over a system that continues to allow this violence to happen — most recently resulting in the heartbreaking deaths of Adam Toledo and Daunte Wright,” Tripathi wrote. “When I meet with our faculty and staff, they echo the same sense of dismay over the power structures that perpetuate racism and brutality. What you tell me — directly and indirectly — is that you are demanding change. I hear the urgency in your voice, and I share your insistence that action is overdue.”
Tripathi also says UB is making progress toward eliminating systemic racism, but he did not detail any specific actions or initiatives UB has undertaken.
“I am constantly considering how our university community can most effectively serve as an agent of change. As I write to you, I acknowledge that there is so much to be done. Truly, our work is far from over. But we are making progress, and I am proud of the action we have taken thus far,” Tripathi wrote.
UB faculty members have previously criticized Tripathi and members of his administration for their response to the BLM movement. On May 30, 2020, five days after Floyd’s death, Tripathi released a five-sentence statement condemning racism and reaffirming the university’s commitment to inclusivity.
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