Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all SoHE students and recent graduates Thursday, June 4, 2020.
Dear SoHE students,
On Monday afternoon, I witnessed hundreds of hopeful people in Madison demonstrating to express their anger at repeated acts of violence against Black and Brown people and to command attention to creating a more just world. We are proud of our student activists, from Madison to Eau Claire to Los Angeles, leading the way in helping people understand issues of police violence, their culture of fear and intimidation, and the systems that normalize and protect the terrorizing of Black and Brown communities in America.
In talking with my grown children and with some of you, I see these marches as another turning point in a long history of activism for greater understanding, action, and justice. I see young people taking up the charge to donate time and money to civic organizations, lending comfort to their neighbors and friends, and educating themselves about systemic racism. The horrific deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others demonstrate the multiple ways systemic oppression remains rooted in our society. We are all processing the anguish and frustration differently, but I encourage you especially to read the reflection of Deputy Vice Chancellor Patrick Sims.
As an Asian American, I know it is important to honor how our movements have borrowed from the work of Black civil rights activists and how we have built our successes in part from their legacy. Regardless of background, however, groups striving for justice are always stronger together. Inaction and silence are not options. Everyone can do something—and this moment demands it of us.
As human ecologists, you are cultivating powerful skills, systems thinking, and empathy to use in furthering the cause of justice in our society. However you do so, in ways large and small, know that I and SoHE leadership supports you in your efforts. Indeed, our years of sustained, strategic investments to prioritize diversity and equity position our students particularly well to answer this now more urgent call to action.
If you have ideas on how we can support one another through this time or how we can leverage our collective efforts towards positive change, please reach out to me directly. I look forward to hearing from you.
Soyeon Shim, Ph.D. | Dean, School of Human Ecology, UW–Madison