I want to begin with this point – the actions in Minneapolis involving George Floyd are inexcusable. No one should be treated that way.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is an institution that relies on trust and believes that by embracing diversity and inclusion we will achieve excellence and societal change.
There is a lot for UTC to learn about dealing both with the pandemic and with racism in our country. Both impact our learning experience and what we hope our students and graduates bring to society. Our mission at UTC is to create greater understanding, sharing of points of view and a willingness to make tomorrow better than today.
The COVID-19 issues are immediate, somewhat unexpected but also something that we expect we will manage or find a vaccine that will move us to a more normal way of life.
Racism has no vaccine because its origins are deeply rooted, more difficult to address and take more than a once-a-year inoculation.
Our role as an institution of higher education is to hopefully graduate students who are more aware of the world around them and their ability to make measurable improvements.
We will soon be announcing guidelines for the Fall semester with social distancing, face masks, hybrid classes and other revisions that will provide a high-quality UTC educational experience in a somewhat different environment. We will follow CDC guidelines and take necessary precautions to protect members of our campus community.
The lessons of racism are not solved with social distancing, a face mask or a vaccine. The elusive answer comes with dialogue, education and the willingness to understand the lessons of history. It requires all of us to stop, listen, accept criticism and welcome words to improve. Patience, which is a virtue, means that we give others the space to speak, hope they will listen to us and in doing so, we are on a new normal to discovering how we appreciate each other as a person.
Our country has been on this journey for a long time. The Civil Rights era of the 1960s galvanized our country’s attention but given recent events we can see we have a long way to go. My hope would be that our UTC community will respect each other as a person and by doing so, whether it is COVID-19 related or a more deep-rooted set of long-standing racial issues, we find ways for a realistic and productive dialogue.