A Message of Community and Solidarity

Jun 03 2020

Message From Dean Mary C. Boyce

Dear SEAS Community,

As we each reflect on the tragic events of the past several days, following on President Bollinger’s message (posted below), I write to you to reaffirm our role together as a community and as a society. The horrific death of George Floyd, along with the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, forcefully remind us of the pervasive racial injustice that exists in this country, particularly against our Black community.

As individuals and as a community, we must stand against such injustice - indeed, these events have united citizens across the U.S. and around the world in outrage, heartbreak, frustration, and unity to confront this injustice. There are no words to convey my own sense of anguish and anger – and our need to be one at this time. Although we are not able to be physically together on campus, we are together as a Columbia community. 

For all of us, the choice to be at Columbia was a choice to value learning, inquiry, the pursuit of knowledge and innovation, where the diversity of our campus is inherent to our excellence. Columbia challenges us to think and to act in deeper and more meaningful ways – yet we have a long way to go. Let us reflect on our own community and, in turn, let this help drive our individual and collective responsibility and actions going forward, on campus and beyond.

Mary C. Boyce
Dean of The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science

Message From President Lee C. Bollinger

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am writing in both a personal and an institutional capacity. Like everyone, I have been reflecting on the events of the last week with an increasing sense of anguish at the human suffering we are witnessing and of alarm at the national crisis we are facing in our political system.

Until last Friday, I did not think it was possible for me to forget even for a moment that we are in the midst of an historic pandemic, bringing untold human loss and crossing a numerical threshold of unimaginable proportions. But the horrifying ending of the life of George Floyd, a citizen in the very system of justice intended to protect him, and us, which then, along with other recent tragic deaths, drew back the curtains on centuries of invidious discrimination against African Americans, and others, did that. My hopes for a renewed sense of national purpose to continue the heroic efforts of so many, over so many generations, to change once and for all that terrible course of history have been raised, and then deflated. We are at a point in our history where political leadership is not only absent but also disturbingly confounding of the fundamental norms and values that take years and years of hard and determined work to develop—and yet are always so fragile when pitted against the worst instincts of human nature. My concerns here are not partisan, but basic to our culture.

Like so many others here, I have chosen to dedicate my life to sustaining and building academic institutions, and my beloved Columbia, specifically. There is no question that the expectations of intellectual character we choose to live by in the academic world are extreme, and we cannot reasonably expect them to set the bar for ordinary political deliberations and interactions. But what we are seeing today—which unfortunately included just in the last week an unfounded attack on our research and researchers, as well as on the University itself—is at the opposite end of the spectrum. If this were a single incident, that would be one thing, but in the current way of behaving, these become acts of intimidation and dangerous mischaracterization of expertise, one of the hallmarks of a descent into authoritarianism.

In the face of all this, it is only a start to express empathy and solidarity with those in our community who are experiencing loss and apprehension. But I certainly do so here, on behalf of all of us. Universities are not perfect and we have to accept our share of responsibility for the state of affairs we have today. But we are determined, even more so now, to change and to be better. More than anything we will continue to provide the society and the world with all the knowledge we can preserve and create and with a new generation of citizens and leaders who are prepared to live by, and fight for, the values of respect for reason, the love of ideas, and the wish to use these to care for others. 

Lee C. Bollinger

Message From Suzanne B. Goldberg and Joseph Defraine Greenwell

Dear Students,

As protests and understandable outrage unfold across the nation over the recent killings of unarmed African Americans, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, we want to acknowledge the tremendous pain this violence has caused to many in our own community.

Enshrined in Columbia’s core values is our commitment to recognize the dignity and value of every person. These most recent violent acts occur against a long backdrop of anti-Black racism in the United States, rooted in slavery and reinforced over time in many facets of our nation’s culture and institutions. And they remind us that we have a long way to go toward achieving true equality for all.

As a University, we are committed to facing and responding to the challenges of our time, which unquestionably include systemic racial inequities – in our criminal justice system, in access to socioeconomic and educational opportunity, and in health care, where we have seen the disparate impact of COVID-19 on people of color and immigrants throughout the United States.

In this difficult time, please know that you are not alone. Be kind to one another. And, as always, make use of the many available campus resources, including virtual health and counseling services (Morningside and CUIMC) and support from Religious Life.

If you or someone you know has experienced bias, please reach out to your Dean of Students. For questions or concerns regarding discrimination, please contact Student Conduct and Community Standards.

Visit the University Life website to get more information about resources, or write to [email protected] if you’d like to get in touch with us.

In community,
Professor Suzanne B. Goldberg
Executive Vice President for University Life
Herbert and Doris Wechsler Clinical Professor of Law
Gender Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Joseph Defraine Greenwell, Ed.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs, University Life
Gender Pronouns: He/Him/His