Yale Leadership Addresses the Murder of George Floyd and the Legacy of Racist Violence

June 5, 2020

Statements by the President, Yale College and Faculty of Arts and Sciences,
and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

President’s Office

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

I write to you today deeply upset by the killing of George Floyd while he was in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. Mr. Floyd’s death follows a pattern of racial injustice that has become too familiar in our country and that amounts to a national emergency.

At a time when the American community must come together more than ever before, George Floyd’s horrifying death shocks our shared conscience and indicts our shared failure. It can and must remind us of other similar killings and of the racism, nativism, and bigotry too pervasive in society today and throughout our country’s history.

Over the past week, I have been thinking about two seemingly incongruous things—our sense of community and one of our most basic emotions: fear.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, legitimate fear has been very much with us, but not just about the virus itself, and not among us equally. From reports of racism against people of Asian descent to the unacceptable disparities in health outcomes and health care, there was every reason for us to fear for the safety of our neighbors and family members, and of some, sadly, more than of others.

At the same time, I saw nurses, doctors, support staff, and volunteers act with courage, selflessness, and compassion in our home city and around the world. We nurtured a growing sense of community, which gave us the optimism and hope that must ever be a cornerstone of our beloved country. It is in the face of that noble expression of solidarity that George Floyd’s death has shaken us and the shared spirit of heroism we have aroused to fight the pandemic.

As I read the news reports of Mr. Floyd’s death and its explosive response, I knew that many members of our community feel fear in their daily lives because of the injustices they have experienced and witnessed, and I thought of how fear so reliably leads to anxiety, depression, health deterioration, and anger, and also to aggression and even violence. Some of the protests have turned destructive, undermining the plea for justice all Americans must share. Fear is powerful, damaging, and unpredictable in its effects.

I believe that all of us at Yale must do what we can to replace fear with hope—and not with anything less than action. Here I have been thinking much of the life of the extraordinary Pauli Murray, a lawyer, civil rights leader, and Yale Law School graduate. She experienced firsthand the cruelties of racial segregation and suffered injustices. She knew fear. However, she wrote in her memoir, “Seeing the relationship between my personal cause and the universal cause of freedom released me from a sense of isolation…I would be no less afraid to challenge the system of racial segregation, but the heightened significance of my cause would impel me to act in spite of my fears.”

I have implored myself—and earnestly invite you to do the same— to make direct use of Pauli Murray’s wisdom. Her words remind us of all that we have been able to accomplish together because of our shared commitment to the common good. Since mid-March, we have saved lives in this pandemic. We have isolated ourselves, changed the way we live, and sacrificed to safeguard the well-being of the most vulnerable among us and prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. It is vital to remember that we have been united in easing suffering, improving lives, and providing hope during a turbulent and challenging period of our history. If we can do this, we are capable, all of us, of creating the America we must insist belongs to us all.

In 1945, Pauli Murray wrote, “As an American I inherit the magnificent tradition of an endless march toward freedom and toward the dignity of all mankind.” We have so much more to do to foster and sustain an equitable society. Instead of feeling the isolating effects of fear when our sense of community is shaken, we must remember that we are connected in more ways than we are divided. And that where we are divided, we must work, now, in the interest of unity and justice. This is a matter of the highest importance.

So, let us act as Pauli Murray would have us act toward those we know well but also those to whom we are connected simply by a common and powerful dream. I am grateful that you and I share Yale and its mission to improve the world today and for future generations. In looking forward to the work we have ahead of us, I wish you peace and strength.

With best wishes for your health and safety,

Peter Salovey
Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology

Yale College

Yale College Dean’s Office and Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Copied to Yale College Faculty

Dear students,

George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police has rightly outraged our nation and our community. In response to it, many of you have protested in person and in writing, in some cases both, and in the name of justice – not only for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor but also against systemic racism, police brutality, and over 400 years of violence against black men and women in our nation. So many of you in your daily lives work toward this justice already, and many of you have just begun it. Even though we are now spread out around the world, this is a time to remember that you carry with you everything you have learned not only from the faculty but also from each other. You also have the support of your heads, deans, directors and the Yale College community. We all stand with you.


Marvin Chun and Tamar Gendler

Dean of Yale College and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Copied to: Graduate School faculty and registrars

May 31, 2020

Dear graduate students,

I write to you from a place of calm and natural beauty that belies the ugliness that is unfolding in the world around us. With the murder of George Floyd as the latest atrocity perpetrated on black people, I know you are rightly enraged and in pain and maybe very fearful for your safety and the safety of those you care about. Like you, I am sickened that racially motivated violence is still a reality in our society. It is a blight on humanity, and it is the shadow side of our culture.

For years – forever, it seems – we have seen black people abused, mistreated, and murdered. Even on our own campus we have had to face historical reminders of slavery. These grate on the soul and are reminders of a Yale gone-by with which we all must reckon.

Today, I want to tell you this: you are not alone. While I cannot ever know exactly how it feels to be a person of color at this time and in this place, I can only tell you that I am here for you no matter what. The GSAS staff are here for you. You are the reason we get up in the morning to do what we do – you are our inspiration even as you suffer and strive, and especially when you succeed.

We are driven by all of our students but especially those who count themselves among the few – the few graduate students of color, the few who are first-generation scholars, the few who are undocumented, the few who feel they were left behind by a system that did not work for them. We can acknowledge and celebrate your unique brilliance only by bringing you here so you can realize your ambitions in a welcoming community of scholars.

You are the antidote to the world’s sickness. You are the remedy. For you, I want a Yale that is an oasis of unity, peace, and collegial support. 

I thank those of you who wrote to me and President Salovey. I hope you find in my words that you are heard.

Sincerely yours,

Lynn Cooley,
Dean, Yale University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
C.N.H. Long Professor of Genetics
Professor of Cell Biology and MCDB

Statements by Professional Schools

School of Architecture

Dear Yale School of Architecture Community,

Like you, I reacted to news of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis with grief and anger. To the Black and African American members of our community, I recognize your pain and I am with you in solidarity. 

As designers, theorists, historians and architects, we must learn to recognize the ways in which oppression is materialized and embedded in the built environment. The systemic racism that haunts our cities turns the buildings we design into symbols of oppression and neighborhoods into landscapes of fear. Previous generations of designers inflicted damage on Black and African American communities in this country through racialized zoning and urban renewal policies, and the design of segregated facilities and inadequate housing. We must be aware of the ways our inherited methodologies and practices have been implicated in dividing urban spaces so that we can stop perpetuating injustice. We must work with communities with respect, humility, engaged minds, and with the intention to listen first and foremost. 

Institutions are not neutral, and I recognize our institutional imperative to direct power toward change, including expanding our curriculum and increasing faculty diversity. The work is ongoing. I, along with the faculty, welcome your candid thoughts and proposals.

These are not new challenges, and they are difficult ones to overcome, but we must face them together. I am here for you and I stand with you as we design and build a better school, city and nation. 

Take care of yourselves, and of others, please.

Deborah Berke, FAIA LEED AP
Dean, Yale School of Architecture

School of Art

June 1, 2020

Dear Yale School of Art Community,

With our national landscape marked by sorrow, grief, and outrage, the School of Art stands in solidarity with our Black students, faculty, staff, colleagues, friends, and neighbors in New Haven and across the country. We recognize that throughout America’s history and into its vexed present, the recurrent denial of humanity to Black people and their communities has been sustained by police brutality for far too long without consequences or change.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery—these lives are among the countless others taken by a system of oversight that, in the name of police order, is plagued by racial profiling and presumption of guilt. These acts reflect the pervasive racial injustice embedded throughout this country’s institutions. It is our responsibility as educators and institutional academic leaders to enable and ensure safe and equitable spaces for all people of color and to pedagogically work and labor to dismantle institutional bias and racism.

We are committed to being an antiracist institution, both as a School and a community. As we are steadfastly committed to building a diverse community of graduate students, we understand that entails building scholarship funds for a sustainable education. We also understand that we must make every effort to build a diverse faculty, continuing to develop a curriculum that addresses explicitly how racial injustice unfolded in history and how it persists in the ever present. We recognize the importance of the artist’s role in bringing forth a civil society—understanding how a practicing artist is challenged and influenced by structural problems of inequity and the climate of political and social dissonance.

This is among the driving motivations of the School’s Art and Social Justice Initiative, wherein programs such as the Prison Education Initiative brought our graduates as teachers to incarcerated youth and adults vulnerable to a broken justice system. But that program must extend into one that empowers artists to forge the change that needs to take place, and this requires our work to further mold these programs. The death of George Floyd and the protests of the past week prove that social engagement within the arts has never been more important, and that we must even further activate our commitment to art and civil society as the School builds the means through which the arts can encourage humanity and deconstruct hate in all its forms across communities.

As we witness and engage in the nationwide demonstration of outrage, we emerge out of what continues to unfold within the coronavirus crisis that has also disproportionately affected communities of color. Furthermore, we have been confronted with an economic turmoil that has also had its highest impact on people of color. This is a time of loss, anxiety, anger, and grave sadness—and we, as a faculty, will proceed with immediate programming to address this as a community. In the days ahead, the School of Art will launch Speak to Me, an online forum with invited speakers, activists, writers, and artists hosted by poet, playwright, and author Claudia Rankine and Leah Mirakhor, Lecturer in Ethnicity, Race, Migration, in an effort to address the NOW (full schedule forthcoming). We will also proceed to offer micro-grants for project support around art and social justice in early June. Additionally, artist and Associate Professor Meleko Mokgosi will lead a weekly panel beginning this week with UCLA Psychoanalysis Research Professor Jeffrey Prager on June 3rd and author and historian Leslie Harris on June 9th.

I respect your will to voice and to stand for change, but as you do, I beg you to be safe in your actions and should you find yourself within a legal situation because you have faced arrest while in protest, please reach out to us. A national list of resources related to legal help, mutual aid funds, and tips for protestors is being assembled online here.

In memory of George Floyd:

“When off duty after a hard day of fighting, we are like spent troops, ready to plunge into pleasure to obliterate the memory of this slow death on the city pavements. Just as in the South, in spite of the Lords of the Land, we managed to keep alive deep down in us a hope of what life could be, so now, with death ever hard at our heels, we pour forth in song and dance, without stint or shame, a sense of what our bodies want, a hint of our hope of a full life lived without fear, a whisper of the natural dignity we feel life can have, a cry of hunger for something new to fill our souls, to reconcile the ecstasy of living with the terror of dying…”

—Richard Wright, 12 Million Black Voices, 1941

In solidarity with all those speaking out for an equitable world,

Marta Kuzma
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean 
Professor of Art 

Divinity School

May 30, 2020

There are events that touch us profoundly. Anyone who has seen the video is haunted by the image of George Floyd being held down by a police officer who has planted his knee on Floyd’s neck and who holds it there for more than eight minutes, taunting him while Floyd cries that he cannot breathe. We watched as those on the sidewalk shouted to the police officers, pointing out Floyd’s plight—all to deaf ears until Floyd lay dead. Why? Why do those who take an oath to protect and to serve become the instruments of death? Based on the video it is hard to see this as anything less than the third-degree murder with which the ex-officer has been justly charged. 

The response has been national—understandably. It would be horrible enough if this were an isolated case, but we all know that it is not. The expressions of pain that we see and hear across the country today come in response not only to the murder of Floyd, but to hundreds of years of systemic abuse of people of color and to the repeated instances of police brutality against black people, especially men. We know their names and remember the footage: Eric Garner, who was placed in an unlawful chokehold in New York City (July 17, 2014) and, like George Floyd, protested as he was dying that he could not breathe; Michael Brown, who was shot while unarmed in Ferguson, MO (August 4, 2014); Walter Scott, who was shot in the back as he ran away from a traffic stop in North Charleston, SC (April 4, 2015); Freddie Gray, who was assaulted in custody and died a week later in Baltimore, MD (April 12, 2015); Sandra Bland, who died in a jail cell three days after her pretextual arrest in Waller County, TX (July 13, 2015); Philando Castile, who was shot in his car while searching for an ID in Falcon Heights, MN (July 7, 2016);  Ahmaud Arbery, who was fatally shot by private citizens while jogging in Brunswick, GA (February 23, 2020); and Breonna Taylor, who was killed by officers in Louisville, KY, when they entered her apartment on a “no-knock” warrant (March 13, 2020). This list goes on. We have all seen the videos and remember them vividly. 

We are aghast and appalled. Yet at the same time, we know this is not simply an issue of police violence; it is an issue of systemic racism.  During the current pandemic, the hospitalization and death rates for Black and Latinx populations in Connecticut are two to four times higher than they are for whites: for every 100,000 people in our state, 233 blacks have been hospitalized, 138 Hispanics, and 60 whites; for every 100,000 people 51 backs have died, 22 Hispanics, and 21 whites (Roadmap for reopening Connecticut from Governor Lamont, p. 15). The CDC has noted a similar pattern nationally (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/racial-ethnic-minorities.html). These statistics are deeply unsettling; they point to the reality that police violence and health disparities are part of the same larger problem.

The current pandemic is forcing us to rethink many things about life. We need to rethink racial relations and commit ourselves to making the necessary systemic changes to address not only police brutality against black males but the underlying racism that COVID-19 has confirmed. We need to hear and acknowledge the cries of pain in our black communities. We believe that Black Lives Matter. It is time for each of us, and for our society and world, to make that statement more than words.

Greg Sterling


Gregory E. Sterling
The Reverend Henry L. Slack Dean
Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament

School of Drama

Dear YSD/YRT Community,

In this time of anguish and righteous anger, Yale School of Drama and Yale Repertory Theatre stand in solidarity with our beloved Black colleagues and friends, teachers, students, alumni, artists, audiences, and fellow citizens in New Haven and around the world.

We grieve the unconscionable losses of life and liberty we have witnessed, including the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, among countless others. We see and acknowledge the pain of Black people in the United States through four centuries of oppression.

We are outraged by ongoing, state-sanctioned violence against Black people, and by the official posture of the executive branch of our federal government to incite still more racist violence. We also recognize that racism and white supremacy are often perpetuated and supported by institutions.

In alignment with our core values, we bolster our commitment to interrogating our assumptions and work; to dismantling racism and white supremacy in our own school and theater; and to making YSD/YRT safe and equitable places for our Black colleagues—and all of our colleagues of color—to thrive in life and art.

Drama is action: in the wider world, as in the theater, the actions we must take are to believe and lift up the lived experiences of Black people, and to mobilize our privilege in service of justice for them.

The School and the Rep invite your partnership in this work and welcome your candor in holding us accountable.



James Bundy
Dean/Artistic Director
Yale School of Drama/Yale Repertory Theatre

School of Forestry & Environmental Studies


Like you, I have watched and read the news and am horrified by our nation’s pattern of violence against African Americans, and the recent egregious killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The “I Can’t Breathe” signs so poignantly express the unacceptable loss of human life for centuries, as well as this individual terrible event.

It is crucial at this time that we support one another, reaffirm our collective values of equity, inclusion, and justice, and remember the many ways in which we can engage, both individually and as a community, and work to lead this country into a better future. We are geographically spread far and wide right now, but let’s draw some strength from one another.

We will be scheduling at least two events in coming days, a lunch conversation and a video of reflections from Thomas Easley (more information to follow). I have interacted with many members of our Leadership Team this weekend, and we are all here to lend our support, so please reach out if you would like to share your thoughts or have ideas about engagement.

Ingrid C. Burke
Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean

Law School

May 31, 2020

To the Members of Our Community:

Whenever I walk through the halls of Yale Law School, I pass by a set of posters that bear witness to the collapse of the core values to which the School is dedicated. Each year, our students post the names of the victims of police violence, a silent testament to the ongoing breakdown of law, the persistence of racial violence, and the absence of justice.

George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s names will be added to our walls this fall. And theirs are not the only names we say today as we reflect on the continued racial violence and abuse of racial power and racial privilege enacted upon African Americans. I think of Ahmaud Arbery and Christian Cooper. I know that these names are just the latest, most high-profile instances of this country’s shameful legacy of treating black lives as if they do not matter. And I know that I will see new names on our walls in the future. A part of racism’s cruelty lies in its tenaciousness.

The events of recent days have been gut-wrenching and underscore the yawning gap between our practices and our ideals. These acts of racial violence, oppression, and discrimination are immoral. They corrode the legitimacy of our legal system. They threaten the safety, well-being, and selfhood of members of our own community. 

My heart goes out to all of you, especially to the African American and Black members of the faculty, staff, and student body. We have already been through an exhausting few months, and I am deeply pained that we are apart and isolated when we most need each another. I hope every member of this community will reach out, connect, and care for one another. 

What matters now isn’t just this community’s strong bonds, but also its work. Many of our faculty have devoted their life’s work to reforming policing, promoting procedural justice, ending mass incarceration, and combating racial subordination. Many of our students came here to engage with these issues and have fiercely pursued these causes through clinics, centers, and their own projects and scholarship. 

This week I find it hard to take much solace in this work. We must turn with clear eyes to the posters on our walls, which remind us that the legal system we inhabit has yet to make good on its promise. They remind us that we cannot rest easy. They remind us that we must reflect not just on law’s abject failures, but on our own. They remind us how much work is left to do. As a law school, we have a special responsibility to exercise leadership in service of equality, and we will do so. 

Please take care of yourselves. 

Heather K. Gerken
Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law

School of Management

June 1, 2020

Dear Yale SOM Community:

The killing of Mr. George Floyd, an African American man, by the Minnesota police has shocked and deeply angered me, as it has doubtless done to you. This event is, alas, but the most recent installment in a regrettable catalog of black men meeting violent deaths at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve them. The litany of these occurrences spans good and bad economic times, cuts across Democratic and Republican administrations, and respects no regional boundaries. Without a video recording, this event may well have followed another familiar pattern: a focus in the public discourse on the alleged precipitating actions of the victim (forever unable to defend himself), and skepticism or outright disbelief towards those who suggest wrongdoing inspired by racism on the part of the police.  

To the anxieties that lead virtually all of the black families I know, including my own, to preach to their children, and especially their sons, the need for extreme caution when interacting with the police, is thus added frustration from the indignity of not having those fears understood or even believed. There is no gainsaying the video evidence of what happened to Mr. Floyd. Seeing the callous brutality of the act, the cavalier disregarding of his pleas for help, and the failure of multiple officers to intervene has helped us all to understand and believe. It has also enkindled righteous anger, not only in the black community but also among a broad cross-section of Americans repulsed by this event and by what it reveals about the policing experienced by many of their African American fellow citizens.

These feelings have found admirable expression in a wave of massive, multi-racial, and impassioned protests against police misconduct across the entire country. I think I speak for us all when I say that we at SOM affirm the pain that causes so many to gather and collectively raise their voices against racial injustice. Further, consistent with our distinctive mission, I believe that we are motivated by their example to work to help eradicate the structures of racialized bias and power that give rise to injustice. Some work before each of us must occur in our private lives as citizens and neighbors and friends. In the professional sphere, management and leadership skills of the sort developed at SOM will be essential for reforming police departments and to identify and empower good police officers. This repeating cycle of societal pain must end, and I have every confidence that we will do our part to bring that about.

Regrettably, some in the large crowds of protesters have engaged in destructive or violent behavior. I think it is essential to condemn with firmness and in the clearest possible terms, looting, rioting, and general mayhem that threaten the wellbeing of others or their property. No group in this country has historically suffered greater harm from violent mob action than African-Americans, so those seeking to achieve racial justice for blacks have, it seems to me, a particular moral duty to not cause injury to others. I hope earnestly that any destructive behavior ceases. I hope, too, that any such occurrences do not become the main focus of our attention in the days ahead, displacing the urgent imperative to be steadfast partners to those who feel powerless and fearful and need our support, understanding, and assistance.

Things may be dispiriting at present, but I am very optimistic about the future. A key strand of my scholarly research documents and attempts to explain racial differences in socioeconomic outcomes. Even though some persistent gaps remain, various labor market, housing, and financial market outcomes show a steady erosion in black-white differences over time.  These relative improvements for blacks were the result of a determined effort by policy, business, universities, the military, and various other institutions to lower the effects of bias and discrimination. As these protests raging around the country indicate, Mr. Floyd’s death may be the catalyzing spur that prompts us— all of us—to ensure that racialized police treatment is consigned to history’s garbage pile.  

With best regards,


Kerwin K. Charles
Indra K. Nooyi Dean | Yale School of Management
Frederic D. Wolfe Professor of Economics, Policy, and Management 

School of Medicine

Our Responsibility

To the YSM Community:

This week we have been confronted by the image of a white police officer holding his knee on the neck of a fellow human being, a Black man named George Floyd. The image invokes the most visceral of emotions, sickness, shock, anger, and for many in our community fear for themselves and for their loved ones. It follows on a series of disturbing events, including the shootings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

As physicians, students who aspire to be physicians or physician associates, and staff engaged in patient care, education, and discovery, we hold our responsibility for human life above all else. Our oaths recognize that we are also members of the community. The Hippocratic oath includes the language, “I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.” The Declaration of Geneva includes the language, “I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat …” How then do we respond?

First, we must acknowledge what we have seen and call out racism. Second, as private citizens we must exercise our right to vote and hold those entrusted with public safety accountable. Some may wish to exercise the right to peaceful assembly.

As physicians, students, and staff, we must examine our own biases that prevent us from delivering the best quality care to every individual. We must also speak up when we witness bias against members of our own school. To this end, I have asked Deputy Dean Darin Latimore, MD, to accelerate education on unconscious bias within Yale School of Medicine.

As a medical school we must take responsibility for our role in health care inequities. In recent months, we have seen the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 infection on African Americans and Hispanics in our community. Public health measures to “flatten the curve” have also disproportionately affected the economic security of these members of our community. Common diseases such as diabetes and hypertension have a disparate impact on these groups every day. We must and will increase our investment in health disparities research.

We must listen to our patients and our community to understand their needs. As scientists, we must apply rigorous hypothesis-testing to understand the etiology of health disparities. Over the last few months, I have had the privilege of meeting a group of community leaders who are working closely with investigators at Yale School of Medicine to guide research, the Cultural Ambassadors, leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church and the Junta for Progressive Action. The COVID-19 epidemic has afforded us the opportunity to strengthen the influence of this extraordinary group and I look forward to continuing these conversations.

Our response to the events of this week must begin at home.


Nancy J. Brown, MD
Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Medicine
C.N.H. Long Professor of Internal Medicine

 School of Music

Dear YSM community,

In this time of pain, anger, and grief, I write to you who share these and many other emotions with our African American colleagues and friends at YSM and throughout the world. Regrettably, it is a moment when we are apart and unable to express our feelings either musically or personally, unable to cry with each other, and unable to create musical elegies and tributes together.

To witness the cold-blooded murder of Mr. George Floyd, even on television, was terrifying. To see the vacant emptiness in the eyes of Officer Derek Chauvin with his knee pressed on Mr. Floyd’s neck was horrifying. To sense the utter helplessness of a human being pleading for his life, for a gasp of air, was maddening. To observe three other policemen who assisted in this murder and intimidated bystanders was incomprehensible. But to even try and imagine the incalculable loss of George Floyd to his family and friends is inconceivable.

The binding shackles of oppression on ships that sailed from Africa to America centuries ago are now bolted to us, to our society. Especially for African Americans, these shackles have been held secure by fear instilled from the corruption of power and wealth along with a litany of unanswered actions that disregard the sanctity of human life and dignity. We all know that systemic racism is endemic in institutions, among them government, business, and education.

As this tragedy unfolded, the School had begun a Strategic Planning Initiative to look ahead in the next five to seven years. Some of the most engaging and meaningful conversations have centered on diversity in its many dimensions. We will always continue to question and examine our practices, seeking understanding and insight that prevents all vestiges of racism in our work. And our renewed commitment to making YSM a welcoming home for African American colleagues – and indeed all people of color – will create an environment where all musical impulses can be heard with zealous curiosity and appreciation.

Our music can and must speak to these conditions, whether strains of solace or rhythmic pulsations of protest. The artist’s sensitivities and sensibilities are commentaries on what we can do to break and destroy the ancient shackles of shameful racism. Never before has the artistic voice been more important. Now is the time to begin anew at home, here at YSM.

I look forward to speaking with you in our zoom meetings, and I thank you for the many ways you help heal our world.

Warmest Regards,

Robert Blocker
The Henry and Lucy Moses Dean of Music

School of Nursing

June 2, 2020

Dear YSN Community,

We have watched in horror and sadness as the events of the last week unfolded. The tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of police is the latest in a history of murder of black people in the United States. The disproportionate response to protesters following Mr. Floyd’s death in comparison to those protesters in various states flouting public health guidelines lays bare a crisis of our values as a nation. Police violence must be addressed as a public health threat, now and beyond the pandemic. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the public health crisis extends far beyond the pathogen. Black people make up 13% of the US population, but account for 25% of deaths related to COVID-19 where ‘race’ is known, a syndemic of accumulated inequities.

YSN stands in solidarity with the anguish people are feeling. YSN faculty, administration, and staff are ready to support each of us who may be experiencing additional distress this week, during an already-fraught time. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), the IDEAS Council, or the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) can be reached by contacting Raven Rodriguez, Heather Reynolds, Associate Dean Nelson or Associate Dean Dhall. Students who are experiencing stress or trauma can also call Yale Health’s Mental Health and Counseling Office at 203-432-0290.

In the coming weeks, we will provide more details about how we can come together as a community to listen, learn, and share ideas for how we can best use our voices for good at a time that demands it.



Ann Kurth
Dean of Nursing and Linda Koch Lorimer Professor

School of Public Health

To the YSPH Community – our students, staff, faculty, and alumni:

The events of this week highlight the continued structural racism in our society that literally costs lives. Mr. George Floyd, another unarmed, cooperative black man, was killed in a police murder in Minneapolis, followed by a violent, provocative Twitter® response from our President. Police violence must be added to the list of urgent public health priorities in the U.S., given societal failures to solve this through legal and political action. A high-profile racist confrontation in Central Park preceded this tragic murder.  Disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic death statistics point to the social and racial determinants of disease, highlighting inequities in housing, work safety, underlying medical conditions, and access to care. In a smokescreen to mask U.S. failings, the Administration is orchestrating the apparent full withdrawal of the U.S. from the World Health Organization, the multinational agency focused on the health and welfare of people of color in Africa, Asia, South and Central America, and Oceania. 

Students, staff, faculty, and alumni alike recognize that public health in general and YSPH in particular have not done enough to end white supremacy and structural racism. Events from the past few months reinforce our commitment for YSPH to be a leader in working to end this public health threat. We should be ever vigilant about how our technical skills must be matched by skills in communication and community partnership to address the underlying elements of social injustice and racism.  The urgency to put public health practice, research, and education at the forefront of this national agenda has never been greater.

As a start, YSPH will hold a virtual town hall next month with experts in the school, alongside students, alumni, and community participants, to determine next concrete steps. Students who may be struggling with trauma or stress related to these events should reach out to Yale Health’s Mental Health and Counseling Office at 203-432-0290. Join the YSPH community in mourning, but also in mobilizing.

Sten H. Vermund, Dean
Mayur Desai, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Frank Grosso, Associate Dean for Students
Melinda Irwin, Associate Dean for Research
Melinda Pettigrew, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Statements by Cultural Centers

Asian American Cultural Center

Beloved AACC community,

We write this message to you today overcome by a wide range of emotions and we feel deeply for those who have suffered at the hands of people in power who have repeatedly inflicted violence on Black people. But the feeling that remains is one of resolve to use the privileges and resources that are at our disposal as Asian Americans to amplify the cries for justice that are being echoed by the Black community throughout this country. We acknowledge that racism and white supremacy has long been a part of the history of this country. While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly led to many of us bearing witness to and/or experiencing anti-Asian violence firsthand, it is imperative we recognize that it is inextricably linked to anti-Black violence that allows police to take the lives of unarmed civilians, like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor most recently.

As we think about what has to be changed, it is necessary for us to move beyond individual acts of racism but to think about the ideological conditions that have legitimized, justified and institutionalized white supremacy. If you’re at a loss on where to start, several of your peers involved in AACC affiliate student organizations have organized and compiled a few ways you can contribute to advancing the #BlackLivesMatter movement that are included below in this newsletter. We also encourage you to be critical consumers and disseminators of information as there are many who are intentionally spreading disinformation to distract from the critical message of justice and accountability. Crisis coverage is profitable but it does not liberate so let us be mindful about what we choose to share via social media and treat images of Black victims with utmost respect.

As we find ourselves still largely confined to our homes due to COVID-19 health and safety measures, we hope you will take time to unlearn and relearn understandings of institutionalized racism. How do we help our loved ones understand that we have benefited from the current system, while still being harmed by it? If we hope to end this violence we must engage in the complexity of our complicity in anti-Blackness and not put that on the Black people in our lives to educate us. WE must do better. WE must find ways as individuals, as friends and colleagues, and as community partners and leaders to make a change. WE can do this through community organizing, supporting existing grassroots organizations, consistently holding those in power and government accountable, and educating ourselves and our community on anti-Blackness, just to name a few. And, WE must find ways to support one another, build community with one another, and stand in solidarity with one another. Let our love drive us to strive for justice like Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee Boggs, Richard Aoki and Larry Itliong did. We look forward to working alongside you to build a sustained movement that fights for better futures for us all. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with ideas and/or for support at aacc@yale.edu.

With love and hope,

Deans Yee and Sheraz

La Casa Cultural: Latino Cultural Center


Dear La Casa Community,

We would like to start by explicitly stating our support for all Black communities, and in particular, Black students, faculty, staff, and New Haven community members. By this point you have heard from many people regarding the Black lives taken by police forces. We could rehash all the tragedy that has occurred, mainly, the loss of Black lives, but this statement is not meant to retraumatize you. However, we would like to point you to the powerful statement sent by Dean Nelson. She has already done the incredible lift of putting this message together and recommend you read it and take it in. As for this statement, it is meant to be a call to action for our Latinx students and communities at large. Over the past five years we have done increasing programming aimed at centering Afro-Latinx experiences, as we know that the Latinx umbrella term and practices tend to erase or ignore them. This year we engaged in conversations of anti-Blackness within Latinidad. It is clear that we have a responsibility to not just continue these conversations in the aftermath of tragedy, but we require an on-going yearly commitment to do so, especially as our namesake, Julia de Burgos, was an Afro-Latina poet. As we prepare for the upcoming school year, we will work on continuing and expanding these conversations for our La Casa community (if you have any ideas for us, please feel free to email us at lacasa@yale.edu).

While painful but important to admit, we have been conditioned to be anti-Black and to perpetuate anti-Blackness. And although Latinidad is not a racial category, we do have all racial groups within our diaspora. That being said, for those that happen to be non-Black people of color, we cannot conflate our experiences to Black people, including Afro-Latinxs. Here is a great recap of the complication of Latinidad in the U.S. called A Conversation With Latinos Race, a short video with Spanish subtitles (TW: derogatory language used from reflections by Latinxs). If you’re wondering how you can help, here is a short list of actions that you can do:

•           Go beyond checking-in with your Black friends and loved ones. Ask yourself if there is anything you can offer or take off their plate at the moment.

•           Read about anti-Blackness (and act on it). There is lots of great information out there. Here is an article that was written four years ago and not surprisingly, written as if it were today. Check-out the additional resources in step number five for more literature: 5 Steps Latinos Can Take to Combat Anti-Blackness.

•           Remember that in this communal mourning, Black trans lives continue to be particularly vulnerable. Here is a list curated by the Trans Obituaries Project of the lives that we lost of trans womxn of color in 2019. Many of which were Black womxn. Our efforts must be intersectional.

•           Donate, volunteer with, amplify the work of grassroots organizations. Learn from them and follow their lead. Stay informed about local, national, global efforts and engage through a critical lens. Some local organizations in Connecticut include the Connecticut Bail Fund, People Against Police Brutality, and CTCORE-Organize Now!

•           Financially support and promote local businesses, particularly Black businesses. For example, if purchasing books related to bullet number two, consider local Black bookstores and those that support equity-based issues. In New Haven, look into People Get Ready.

•           Take actions, small or large. This could be as simple as writing about what you’re seeing, to supporting #BlackLivesMatter organizing, to having those very difficult conversations with family and community members. None of it is insignificant. If you want to talk things through, feel free to reach out to us. We may not have all the answers, but we would rather offer a space to talk things through than placing more intellectual and emotional labor on your Black friends and loved ones.

•           If you are interested in having some of these conversations in Spanish, check out this great website filled with various resources by Afroféminas or this list put together for Radio Caña Negra.

•           Center the experiences of the Black community and lift Black voices. As you engage in self-work, it can be uncomfortable. Continue to lean into the discomfort, invest in your growth, and increase your awareness to better inform your advocacy.

•           Take care of yourself. Seriously. This work is hard work. If you aren’t filling in your own cup, you cannot effectively serve others. So, whether that means exercising, disconnecting from social media, gardening, therapy, meditation, artistry…whatever it is, take time for yourself.

Ultimately, we do this work out of love and care for each other. In the words of Lilla Watson, “if you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” When Black lives are free, so are we all. As community members we unapologetically state #BlackLivesMatter and we encourage you to say their names: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and many more. Be with and for Black lives.

We have work to do - let’s do it together,

Eileen Galvez & Carolina Dávila

La Casa Cultural de Julia de Burgos

Native American Cultural Center

To Our Yale Indigenous Community & Allies:

We hope this message finds you, your family, and community healthy. The current pandemic has taken a toll on all of us from a spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional perspective. The focus of this newsletter was supposed to center on opportunities for the summer, encouraging you all to use the summer to rejuvenate and refresh, but given the tragic news of George Floyd, we instead write to let you all of you know that we stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We affirm our stance against systemic racism, racial inequality, and police brutality.

We recognize that anti-black sentiments still exist, and are still apparent even in Indigenous communities, and we urge each of you to be a part of a movement that works to fight against such tendencies. Afro-Indigenous people face extreme obstacles within our communities and now is the time for us to examine the ways in which we include and exclude these populations. The NACC may not have always focused on this student population as much as we should’ve in the past and we are working to correct such oversights. We look forward to a more united future for our Indigenous students on the Yale campus.

Today we are seeing so much solidarity from our relations across the globe; from South Africa to New Zealand. We are not alone in this fight for justice. We appreciate the acknowledgments of injustice that have also come from our Yale leadership. If you are looking for additional ways to be informed, take action, or get engaged we would like to direct you to a resource shared earlier today by President Barack Obama, here. If you’re finding yourself needing to focus on your own wellbeing we echo the sentiments of Dean Nelson, by saying “it is all valid.”

The struggle continues, but we will work together, for each other, and we will say his name. George Floyd.

Please continue to take care of yourselves, check on your friends, check on your elders.

If there is anything you need from either of us, please let us know. We are here for you.

Dean Makomenaw, and AD Onco-Ingyadet