Dean Johnson's Message: Some Reflections during a difficult time!

To all,

I hope you are getting used to working from home and balancing all the new opportunities and challenges. For example, having extended time with your children, family, pets, and loved ones is a tremendous blessing. On the other hand, at times this familiarity makes us all wonder just what was so wonderful about these individuals that led us to love them. Fortunately, those of you old enough to have a grown child know that we find a way to remember these past challenges fondly, so just think about all the great memories you are going to have in the future.

I wanted to write this e-mail to give you an update on what is happening in the University, but as I composed it, the message became more. On Thursday night, I had to prepare for an Administrative Council meeting in the College with key leaders in the dean’s office, school directors, and faculty senators. In preparing my thoughts, I reflected on the week and the last few months of challenges facing society. To be frank, last week was a really tough week for me – we passed 100,000 deaths related to COVID-19, we surpassed 25 million unemployed, and the impact of these tragedies is disproportionately impacting those least empowered to handle these tragedies.

As if this wasn’t enough, we received news of the senseless murder of George Floyd and I ended up sitting in front of the TV till after 3:00 a.m. watching the disappointment and anger unfold.  While this is a tragedy, it should come as no surprise, because how often have we seen this before?  The historical and continuing tendrils of racism are a tremendous drain on us all. If something similar happened to me, my wife and family would be shocked, surprised, and devastated. Unfortunately, George’s family is devastated, because they know what happened to George is possible and a cautionary warning which parents that look like George have to repeatedly tell their sons and daughters.

I know I speak for everyone in this college, when I assert that we condemn this death.  More importantly, we condemn the societal forces that make this kind of death possible. These same forces work to make sure that the tragedies of COVID-19 are disproportionately absorbed by those already reeling from the inequality of our society.  I know that these issues are deep and need on-going and dramatic changes to right this injustice, but I am confident we have made a difference and I am asking that we continue to make a difference. How many kids have a degree because of our belief in and support of them? Is there any question we make a difference – we need to keep pushing.

I am asking that we keep the budget cut we are facing in context. It is serious and I am not minimizing it, but it is nowhere near as serious as the societal forces that made George’s death possible.  We need to stay focused, keep what is important central, and see this current tragedy as our opportunity to dismantle social inequities. We have the skills and commitment to help those most impacted by the crisis facing society. Will we fix it all? Absolutely not! But we can impact another child, another family, another agency etc. and every positive step we take impacts those societal forces by helping people have opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

So make memories with your loved ones and work to get through the challenges facing you as best you can. We will get through our cuts and we need to remember this crisis has made what we do even more important! I am confident we will come out of all this stronger and we have always had an impact and we will have an even greater impact when this immediate crisis is over. Take care of yourself, your family and please stay safe. We are all in this together and let’s continue making a difference. Best Wishes and Onward!!