College presidents and officials responded this weekend to nationwide protests and unrest after a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly murdered George Floyd, a black man, using a choke hold while Floyd was facedown and handcuffed. Four officers at the event have been fired and one, who was recorded kneeling on Floyd's neck until and after he became unresponsive, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
P. Barry Butler, president of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said he condemned the killing of Floyd and implored the community to seek out opportunities for kindness.
"We are all worthy and precious, regardless of our backgrounds or ideological differences," he wrote to students and staff. "Violence is never the solution, but we also cannot stand idly by. In turbulent times, self-reflection and education can be keys to positive change. Please ask yourselves how you can leverage your particular connections, skills and knowledge to make a positive difference -- and how unconscious bias may affect your judgments."
Duke University president Vincent Price said in a statement that for many people, pain, trauma and hopelessness are now overwhelming.
"This ongoing history of structural and sustained racism is a fundamental and deeply distressing injustice, here as elsewhere," he wrote. "Duke University will continue the work of addressing generations of racism and injustice, of seeking ways to approach one another with respect, and of building communities that are truly safe, supportive, and inclusive for all."
The president of Cornell University, Martha Pollack, said she was heartbroken and sickened by the deaths of Floyd and other black Americans before him.
"I want to make clear, both personally and on behalf of Cornell, that we will do all we can as a university to address this scourge of racism," she wrote to students and staff. "We will address it directly in our educational programs, in our research and in our engagement and related activities, working through the ways we know best to push for a world that is equitable and kind; where people do not have to fear for their lives because of the color of their skin; and where everyone has the same opportunities to grow, thrive and enjoy their lives."
The administration of Seton Hall University released a statement calling Floyd's death "tragic."
"Issues with which our society has grappled for years, again in the spotlight, further strain a nation already under tremendous pressure from the coronavirus pandemic," the statement said. "As a Catholic community of faith committed to diversity and inclusion, we reaffirm our conviction that racism has no place -- anywhere. Our Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society."
University of South Florida president Steven Currall said the deaths of Floyd and others should prompt the community to pause and think about how racism affects all daily life.
"As we work to help each other understand what has happened -- if we can ever truly understand -- I find myself reflecting on the Principles of Community we aspire to at USF," he wrote to college community, "to treat each other with respect and dignity, refrain from displays of inappropriate anger or intimidating conduct, shun epithets or abusive language, find effective means to disagree, and to persuade and to inform through dialogue."
President Joseph Castro of Fresno State University said what happened to Floyd was "tragic, inhumane and reprehensible."
"While we may at times feel despair at the frequency of such tragic events, and while we might struggle with how to successfully address racism, I am certain that we can begin by being compassionate, supportive and fully inclusive in our programs and in our actions," he wrote to the campus community Saturday. "Let’s commit to an intentional and unwavering effort to see one another as true partners, consistent with our Principles of Community -- kindness, respect, collaboration and accountability -- and our core values of diversity, distinction and discovery."