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As the Chauvin trial ends, how can we move forward?

A message to the campus community from Chancellor Rebecca Blank

Update: 7:30 p.m., April 20, 2021

Today, we learned of the jury’s verdict on the charges in the death of George Floyd and are heartened by the fact that justice has been served. We know that justice is a product of the actions we must take collectively.

There is much more work to be done to eradicate the disproportionate use of force and unequal policing against communities of color and end the racial disparities in our criminal justice system.

Together, we can play a role in establishing policies, practices, and efforts to ensure safety and justice in our communities and our world. The call to action remains, and thus, our work continues.

To our Badger family, we know that it has been a year filled with many trials and transitions. In these times, we restate our commitment to creating a space where all can thrive in a welcoming and inclusive environment.

Together we can take care of ourselves and each other. While not an exhaustive list of our efforts, please be mindful of our campus resources and actions for supporting those in need (see below). We encourage you to engage the many members of our campus community who are here to support you.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank

Dr. Cheryl B. Gittens
Interim Deputy Vice Chancellor & Chief Diversity Officer

Message from the Chancellor
April 19, 2020

Like many of you, I have been following the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd and await the jury’s decision. Regardless of the verdict, it will take concerted action and collaboration by publicly elected leaders, by those in policing, and by activist citizens to change the disproportionate use of force and unequal policing against communities of color.  Racial disparities in our criminal justice system must end – and these go far beyond police action on the streets.

To our students, staff and faculty who are Black, Indigenous and people of color, I recognize that the burdens of this past year have been compounded by the trauma of reliving Mr. Floyd’s killing in excruciating detail and by new injuries such as the fatal police shootings of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, and of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago. These assaults have been compounded by the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color, and by the rise in hate crimes against individuals of color, including the recent examples of anti-Asian hate that have shaken our Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American community.

I know that any message on these topics is always too easily dismissed as empty words. Yet I think it is important to call out these issues and confront racism wherever it exists. As the leader of this institution, my focus must be on directing change in the areas I control and encouraging and expecting others to do the same.

In the early 2000s, I headed a National Academy of Sciences panel focused on how to best measure discrimination in different settings such as the labor market and housing.  As a result, I read some of the research on discrimination in the criminal justice system, an academic area I was not previously familiar with. Compared to the literature I knew in other areas, it was shocking – not because it showed racial disparities, which I expected, but because the magnitude of the racial differences and the irrefutable evidence of causality went far beyond anything I had seen in other areas. Over this past year, all of us have been exposed to far too many examples of these injustices. There is much work to do to create change for Black, Indigenous and communities of color within and beyond Wisconsin.

If we can bring the same commitment to the fight against racism and injustice that we’ve brought to the fight against COVID-19, we can make real progress. Across campus, many students, faculty and staff are doing the hard and necessary work of learning more about these issues, identifying on-campus problems, and working to improve what happens at UW and in the broader community through education, research and outreach. I want to highlight a few efforts that are particularly relevant to this moment as well as share cross-campus initiatives and resources:

  • The Frank J. Remington Center – Part of the Law School, the center has a strong commitment to service, broadly defined, to low-income citizens, incarcerated individuals, correctional agencies, the public defender system, prosecutors’ offices, victims, policy makers and the larger community.
  • The criminal justice reform team in the Social Justice Hub – Part of the Office of Inclusion Education, this student-led team researches topics such as wrongful convictions and connects with people of color in law and local organizations working to reduce recidivism. The team produces a newsletter, podcast and events.
  • The UWPD Equity Initiative – Even as our country debates how to reform policing, UWPD launched an initiative in 2020 to directly combat inequity and bias as well as share transparent practices. They are uniquely situated to do this work at an academic institution and are recognized as innovators.
  • The Understanding and Reducing Inequalities Initiative – The Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education has just announced the funding of 15 research projects to generate actionable knowledge to reduce racial inequities in the U.S.

As we prepare for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in the coming days, I recognize some individuals may want to gather and speak out in response.  The rights to free speech and peaceful assembly are bedrocks of our nation and this university.  If you choose to participate or if you find yourself in proximity to a gathering, please be mindful of your safety and the safety of others as conditions can sometimes change rapidly.

We remain deeply concerned about the cumulative adverse mental health toll of the last year for our students, staff and faculty.  As previous messages have emphasized, we have resources available on this campus for processing spaces and mental health support. These may be familiar to many of you, but I know that there are students and colleagues who are hesitant to seek help. University Health Services has made it a priority to hire mental health providers who focus on BIPOC students to address the additional stresses they experience from racism in its many forms. We recognize that we must do more to ensure that all our students, employees, and visitors feel safe and welcome on this campus.

Whatever the coming days bring, I am committed to engaging further with you on how we can move campus forward.  As we welcome spring, many people of different faiths are celebrating religious holidays that share a common theme of reflection on historical events that shaped the present.  In this moment, I encourage all of us to take time to renew and reflect on how our history of race in this country has shaped who and what we are – both individually and institutionally – and commit ourselves to working for change.

Resources for education and action

Center for the Humanities

Making Sense of the Chauvin Verdict, April 21.

Watch a recording of this discussion

Please join us for a collective and supportive Humanities NOW discussion around what has been, and continues to be, a momentous and painful event. We believe that humanities and legal scholars are in a unique position to respond, to offer insight, and to provide perspective on this verdict. We’ll discuss the impossibility of justice, how this event fits a pattern of bias and historic injustice, and why the pursuit of justice in an unjust society leaves so many of us in our community feeling frustrated, empty, and outraged.

There will be ample time for audience Q&A with our esteemed panelists, including:

  • LaVar J. Charleston, Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Keith A. Findley, Professor of Law
  • Ralph Grunewald, Assistant Professor, English and the Legal Studies Program
  • Sue Robinson, Helen Firstbrook Franklin Professor of Journalism
  • Michael Franklin Thompson, Sociologist and Former Director of Research and Justice Statistics for the Wisconsin Supreme Court
  • Moderated by Russ Castronovo, Director of the Center for the Humanities and Tom Paine Professor of English and Dorothy Draheim Professor of American Studies

Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement (DDEEA)

School of Education

College of Engineering

Graduate School

School of Human Ecology

College of Letters & Science


School of Medicine and Public Health

School of Nursing

School of Pharmacy

  • Diversity Dialogues
    Discussion based dialogues hosted by the Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, and led by faculty, staff and students. The goal of these dialogues are to invite multiple perspectives and engage all in the ownership of embracing and sharing DEI skills, attitudes and behaviors. Contact Lisa Imhoff,
  • Health Sciences Learning Communities
    Contact Lisa Imhoff,

School of Veterinary Medicine

Mental health and support