Statement from Otterbein University leaders on the death of George Floyd and the continuing struggle for racial equality (June 1, 2020)

On Friday, President Comerford shared a message in response to the national outcry about George Floyd’s death via Twitter. Please see the latest from Otterbein University leaders.

Like you, we watched George Floyd’s death under the knee of a police officer. It was horrific to see. It was also very important to watch. It was the murder of one man and evidence of wider racial problems in our society. To be clear, Black Lives Matter.

Cities are in flames. Many citizens who gathered for peaceful protest have been assailed with pepper spray and rubber bullets. Those who were there to serve as leaders and helpers, as well as those reporting on the riots and protests, were not immune. It is also troubling that in the midst of this expression of pain, anger and injustice, there are those who are seizing this time to come into communities with intentions to provoke violence, foment hate and accelerate discord.

We are witnessing the enormity of our country’s pain, anger and demands for justice.

There are no easy, fast solutions. Those who say otherwise are not speaking truth.

As members of Otterbein’s community, we believe you are thoughtful learners. We urge you to pay attention to all sources, to question what’s difficult, and to tap into your sense of justice and empathy as you choose your thoughts, words and actions in response to this shared tragedy.

As an institution, Otterbein is far from perfect. We acknowledge there is work to do in our community and in our society. So where do we begin?

We can listen. We can learn from one another. We can advocate. We can care about the suffering of African Americans who have been subject to years of racism, ignorance and cruelty. We can care infinitely more about repairing broken spirits. Broken storefronts can be replaced, people cannot. We can, we must, strive to be better and to do more.

That is why our designation as a Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center is more important than ever. When we applied to become a TRHT Campus Center, we pledged to expose and dismantle the false belief in a race-based hierarchy of human value. We affirm again today our commitment to this work.

In the coming days, we are asking leaders and scholars in our Otterbein community to share their knowledge and their insights. We are working to finalize details of events to explore how we take action to support healing, growth and learning for our African American community and our community as a whole. Otterbein will communicate news of these events as soon as details become available. It is important that we talk about these things — to affirm our values, to share in our grief, to ensure our ideals and to fortify the very foundation of our mission as an institution of learning.

If you are in need of reassurance that Otterbein stands with our African American students, alumni and colleagues, we are here. If you need support, your professors, mentors, coaches and friends care and are here to help, too.

WE ARE not afraid to do what’s right. WE never have been. WE will get through this together.

With Cardinal unity,

John Comerford, President

Wendy Sherman-Heckler, Provost and Senior Vice President

Erin Bender, Executive Director of The Point

Jefferson Blackburn Smith, Vice President for Enrollment Management

Susan Bolt, Chief Financial Officer and Vice President for Business Affairs

Michael McGreevey, Vice President for Institutional Advancement

Willie Neumann, Chief Information Officer

Kristine Robbins, Vice President and Chief of Staff

Dawn Stewart, Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Athletics