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To the Lafayette Community:

At a time when all of us have experienced a sense of fear and disempowerment as a result of COVID-19, it is important to remind ourselves that some members of our community have an enormous additional burden to bear.

The death of Ahmaud Arbery, the death of Breonna Taylor, and the death of George Floyd in an incident that has led to a police officer being charged with murder: these losses are tragic reminders of the risks that come with being black in America.

To compound the impact of these events, they take place against the backdrop of a national tragedy in which more than 100,000 people have died, with studies showing disproportionate losses in nonwhite, particularly African-American, communities. As analyses are already beginning to reveal, inequality and structural racism have had profound public health consequences in this crisis.

The anxiety and anger felt by many of us at this time are especially difficult to process when we do not have the opportunity to gather as a community. Were the College in session, we could organize discussions and gatherings that would provide opportunities for sharing, support, and activism.

Over the last few months, we have all learned to work hard at maintaining our sense of connection over long distances.  I hope that even though we are far apart, we can look for opportunities to show support now and pledge action in the future. It is not enough simply to bear witness to racism and acknowledge that it exists. As an educational institution, Lafayette College has a role to play in revealing and countering its effects. That is a task that I promise you we will take up when we meet again.

President Alison Byerly

Categorized in: Featured News, News and Features, Presidential News, Social Justice
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  1. Phyllis Finger says:

    Thank you for articulating what we in the greater Lafayette community are all feeling this week.

  2. Phyllis Finger says:

    Thank you for this message!

  3. Terence L Byrd says:

    As a graduate of Lafayette in the mid 70s, I came to the college as a beneficiary of the actions attributed to a group brave Black male students, members of the Association of Black Collegians, who presented the Board of Trustees with the Black Manifesto which called for increased Black representation throughout the college at all levels (student,faculty and curriculum).

    I heard the term “risk students” when referring to the increased number (34) Black students who matriculated to Lafayette in the fall of 1970. As I look back at that group of so called “risk students” our accomplishments in academia and corporate America is unquestionable.

    All We Needed was a Chance to Compete!

    It’s disheartening to still see that as Black Americans we’re still fighting for Equality 400 hundred years after we arrived even though we’ve done all the conventional things to raise public and political awareness progress hasn’t been sustained.

    This isn’t just a Black Issue, It’s a Human Rights Issue.

    President Byerly, I Appreciate You Stepping Up to Take The Leadership Role in Recognizing There Needs to Be A Change Not Only at Lafayette but Throughout America to Address Institutional Racism.

    I’m also offering my availability to contribute to racial equality strategies at Lafayette, as a Black male, as a former student athlete, as a contributor to the movement of increasing Black Awareness in the 70s, as a former CEO, a father of three sons, and as a human being who wants to see the change necessary to move our country forward with the adaptive challenges we face at Lafayette and throughout the country.

    Terence L Byrd ’74

  4. Emma Krebs says:

    President Byerly, I appreciate you (and by extension the college) making such a clear statement on where we as a community stand in the fight against racial injustice. Despite distance, many Lafayette students have, independently and within their student groups, organized numerous fundraising and outreach projects in support of protestors nationwide.

    Personally, I hope to see a similar energy from Lafayette’s leadership. It is not enough at this point to simply denounce the tragedies within the Black community. True activists seek to educate, to provide financial support, to organize supply donations, to have the hard conversations and have them loudly.

    With the academic resources of the college, perhaps something as small as assembling a recommended reading list for understanding the history of police brutality in America (which holds even more relevance as Pride Month begins) or something similar would make an even stronger statement about HOW the college joins the fight.

    I do not believe that the college must wait until it is no longer closed to take up that task. The student body certainly hasn’t.

  5. Rob L says:

    I support ur sentiments & statement. Our college should align with others as a unit to further activism on this front. Fear based policies need 2 b changed now!!!

  6. Karen Carlson says:

    Thank you for speaking out. We all have a duty to fight for social and racial justice. Now is not the time for silence.

  7. C. Jack Lusch MD, '57 says:

    Great message, Dr Byerly. Thank you.

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