Golden hour sunlight streaks down a walkway next to the Anderson Student Center on the St. Paul campus on March 23, 2020. Most students were off campus and all classes moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anticipation and Compassion in the Coming Week

President Julie Sullivan shared the following in an email to the St. Thomas community.

We begin this week filled with uneasiness and tension. After Monday’s closing arguments in Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, the question of whether we will see justice for George Floyd will rest in the hands of a jury. For many, the magnitude of the jury’s decision extends far beyond justice for George Floyd. This decision will be felt as a personal validation or invalidation of the lives of Black people. It also will deepen hope or hopelessness as to whether our society can fully reckon with the historical and current systemic racism in our country and arduously pursue the steps to achieve equity, dignity, and justice for all, as our Creator intended.

I am struggling to find words that adequately reflect my compassion and worry for our Black community at St. Thomas. Their trauma has been compounded by recent incidents of racial violence in the Twin Cities, including, the killing of Daunte Wright by a police officer. The events of this coming week will amplify this pain and anguish and create new stress and suffering for many.

As a St. Thomas community, we are called to accompany our BIPOC students, faculty and staff, regardless of the outcome. Those of us who are not members of the BIPOC community should avoid centering our concerns and practice racial humility. Hold back and listen selflessly and humbly. Give grace to others around you, and the space and time to process whatever happens. Stay informed. Be compassionate, patient and empathetic. Practice simple acts of caring that break down barriers and show that our St. Thomas community believes that Black lives matter.

To our BIPOC community, especially our Black community, know that the St. Thomas community stands with you in love and compassion. I stand with you. I believe Black lives matter.

Resources, Events and Operations

Our trial resources and events page has been updated.  There are additional supports for our BIPOC community as well as opportunities to gather as a community. Students will be notified of additional resources in a Student Affairs message tomorrow.

As of today, we have not made changes to university operations, although we need to extend our “culture of care” toward students and employees who are experiencing stress and trauma by offering flexibility and compassion. If situations arise that cause us to change plans, we will notify the community via email and our USTALERT system.

No Tolerance for Racism and Hate

Finally, please be reminded that racism and hate are not welcome or tolerated at St. Thomas. It angers me to report that we have received three bias incident reports on campus in the last two weeks; our Diversity Action Response Team (DART) is investigating.  Please remember to use our bias reporting system if you feel you have been subject to a bias related incident. I assure you that DART investigates and responds to every single report that is received.

The University of St. Thomas condemns all acts of racism and violence in the strongest terms, and we continue to stand in solidarity with our BIPOC communities at St. Thomas, in our local community, in the U.S. and around the world.

These events try our faith in humanity, yet I offer some hope amidst this painful time.  As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. prayed, I pray that these events will, “shake us from our slumber and open our eyes.” I hope that our society’s awakening to the pain experienced by BIPOC communities for centuries will put us on a better path to create real change now.

I am praying for every one of you.  Thank you for showing love and compassion to one another.

Shake Us From Our Slumber

When our eyes do not see the gravity of racial justice,
Shake us from our slumber and open our eyes, O Lord.

When out of fear we are frozen into inaction,
Give us a spirit of bravery, O Lord.

When we try our best but say the wrong things,
Give us a spirit of humility, O Lord.

When the chaos of this dies down,
Give us a lasting spirit of solidarity, O Lord.

When it becomes easier to point fingers outwards,
Help us to examine our own hearts, O Lord.

God of truth, in your wisdom, Enlighten Us.
God of hope in your kindness, Heal Us.
Creator of All People, in your generosity, Guide Us.

Racism breaks your heart,
break our hearts for what breaks yours, O Lord.

Ever present God, you called us to be in relationship with one another and promised to dwell wherever two or three are gathered. In our community, we are many different people; we come from many different places, have many different cultures. Open our hearts that we may be bold in finding the riches of inclusion and the treasures of diversity among us. We pray in faith.

      - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.