University of Wisconsin–Madison
CIO Blog

Listen, learn, act: Coming to grips with the death of George Floyd

Dear colleagues,

It’s taken me a few days to grapple with the horrific death of Mr. George Floyd and the public response to this latest event. I’m writing now to share my thoughts with you with the hope that reading them connects us together, and to offer my commitment to you.

First, to Brown and Black colleagues, you belong here, you are valued and respected. I want to work with you and learn from you. Your lives matter. I am committed to your safety, your well-being, and to creating a workplace that in every interaction and moment recognizes your expertise and welcomes you in every way.

I’ve spent the last few days doing a few things to come to grips with the situation, with my horror and anger and grief. I watched the video. It was so hard, so overwhelming, but I did not turn my eyes away. I am researching the killings over the recent years, reading the words of many others who are reacting and sharing their perspectives, re-reading American history through the lens of Mr. Floyd’s and others’ deaths and acts of violence to get a more complete view of what led America to the state it is in.

A few days isn’t enough to fully be educated, but I’ve started. And I’ve been reflecting.

Despite my anger and grief, it would be superficial to say that I know what my Black and Brown friends and colleagues feel. I’ve never had to teach my son how to avoid being killed or beaten by police, never felt fear in this way for my husband and son, and cannot pretend to know the depths of this fear.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and know that while I have not had these life experiences, I can listen, learn and I can be part of creating a better society. I can grieve and I can act.

Within DoIT, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee launched a series of events last year to learn ways in which we can be a more welcoming workplace. The events were high quality and I learned a lot from colleagues who participated and the literature we read and watched. Thank you to those who led and participated, and thank you to the committee, led by Derrian Jones, for creating these opportunities to learn and grow. I hope more of you do so in the future.

As a leader in the community, there is much I can do—including promoting, hiring, sponsoring events, and demonstrating my values. You, too, can be a part of creating a welcoming, inclusive community. My voice, and yours, can be used to create a better society.

Personally, I can do much as well. My spouse and I support local community organizations, and we will choose where to place our donations to further social justice. We will choose which businesses to support. We will vote.

Writing these words does not bring me solace—there is no comfort in my mind and heart. But the writing has helped me know what I can do.