I, like you, am saddened and angered by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last week. The systemic racism and ingrained injustice that made his tragic death possible have been normalized in our culture for generations. The College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) condemns the racism that fueled George Floyd’s death and that persists in American culture. As we grieve his death as a community, we must do our best to speak out against the individual and structural racism that generates violence and inequity.
Faculty in A&S have not been silent in their research, teaching, and outreach that leads our society to better understand the structural barriers that for centuries have normalized inequity. Faculty and students across A&S bring both depth and scope to address these problems, approaching them from an interdisciplinary lens that helps equip us to facilitate meaningful and sustainable change. I firmly believe that the research, teaching, and community engagement that our faculty and students are doing across our college reflects our commitment to making Mississippi and America’s future better for all of us. In these difficult times, we must prioritize our efforts to address systemic racism and structural inequity directly and powerfully.
To continue this work, I will be asking A&S faculty across our departments for innovative ways that we might promote meaningful conversations around racial injustice. Many conversations are already taking place in the College: our African-American Studies program will continue its efforts to lead us as we grapple with race as a powerful and persistent social construct that serves to divide us; we will redouble our interdisciplinary Race in America speaker series as it continues to be a source of intellectual and practical sustenance on this topic. A&S is also focused on mental health during these troubled times. Our MSU Psychology Clinic remains at the forefront of training a generation of clinical psychologists who recognize that all voices, viewpoints, and backgrounds make vital contributions to our understanding of society and human behavior. Individual faculty research from many different departments is motivated to contribute to real and lasting change in the face of the ingrained, historical inequities that fuel the racial violence erupting across the nation. We can and will continue to do more.
To me, one of the meanings of the “&” in Arts & Sciences is about bridging differences for the common good—for the good of our students, for the good of our faculty, and for the good of our communities. I take the logic of this & seriously as a marker of the imagined communities that we must continue to forge as we speak out against the atrocity of George Floyd’s death. I remain supportive of our mission statement, which emphasizes that our students should examine the social, historical, political, philosophical, and economic dimensions of the human condition. We too must reflect on ourselves, our programs, and the human condition as we examine the myriad forces that perpetuate racial injustice. We must remain committed to working with the entire A&S community as we head toward becoming that imagined community—one that is more tolerant, safe, and just.
Rick Travis, PhD
Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
Professor, Political Science and Public Administration
Mississippi State University
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