A Safe Society for All (6/1/2020)

Dear Lawrence Community,

Events of the last week have reminded us that as we prepare campus and general society for a new normal in the midst of a global pandemic, other threats to safety exist for members of our community.  Like many of you, George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis left me angry and in pain.  The shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia earlier in February and the many other deaths of black people over the years underlines that Mr. Floyd’s death is not an isolated incident.  It belongs to a social pattern we must change if we are to create a society that is safe for all of us. 

It has been hard enough to watch the pandemic’s unequal impact on people in this country.  But when we continue to witness systemic racism in our communities, it is evident that we have more work to do than responding to a public health crisis.  The rapper Killer Mike, the son of an Atlanta police officer, said at a press conference Saturday in that city, “It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization.”  As we make plans to welcome you back to Appleton this fall we must also take Killer Mike’s charge and look for ways to fortify our own house, our campus community, to ensure we are a force for anti-racism, equity, and safety for all. 

We will schedule time over the next few weeks for the Lawrence community to gather via Zoom, to discuss these events, and determine how we should move forward together.  We also need to remember we are not alone in this work.  I was heartened Saturday to join more than a thousand people in downtown Appleton, including many students, faculty and staff, at a Black Lives Matter rally.  I know Lawrentians around the world participated in similar rallies and protests.

As we complete spring term and look to summer break please reach out to university services if we can be of help.  Assistant Dean Bell, Vice President Card, Vice President Barrett and I are available at any time if you need us. I look forward to seeing you all very soon.



Mark Burstein

President, Lawrence University