Office of the President
Friday, June 5, 2020
Subject: Racial Justice - A Message from President Clark
Dear campus community,
On Wednesday evening, I met with a group of 25 BSU students outside of Boyden Hall who were protesting the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. These passionate and thoughtful students were peacefully exercising their constitutional rights and called on Bridgewater State University to play a more active role in advancing racial justice. I reaffirmed my unwavering support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and we had an open and honest dialogue over specific ways in which BSU could further integrate racial justice into all aspects of the university. They asked me and BSU to “do better.” Our students are right - we can and will do better.
As you might anticipate, the students I met with were also upset that BSU had not immediately disciplined the student depicted in a photo in blackface with a deeply offensive racial slur that appeared on our BSU Student Mobile App. Although federal law prohibits universities from publicly discussing details involving individual students, I can report that the student is no longer a member of the BSU community.
BSU learned of the offensive post on Monday night, June 1, and immediately commenced an investigation that same evening. As I explained to the students, it is vital to all students that the Student Handbook’s expectations for student behavior, our university values and the student conduct process be fairly and objectively applied to all students. Due process in conducting such investigations through our Code of Student Conduct is in place to protect everybody. I believe the outcome of this case was just and necessary.
Hundreds of members of the BSU community have joined me in signing a values statement adopted by our Board of Trustees in 2015. In that statement, BSU reaffirmed its own values of diversity, inclusion and equality and rejected “all forms of bias, discrimination, xenophobia and violence.” At BSU, we live those values every single day by striving to be a caring, inclusive and welcoming community. On Tuesday, we held an emotional and constructive Forum on Racial Justice which was attended by 250 members of our campus community. I want to thank those who courageously shared their own experiences of racism, both on and off our campus. That forum will be only the first of many conversations we will hold at BSU regarding issues of racial justice, systemic discrimination and structural inequality.
Although statements and conversation are important, the students and I agreed that action is more powerful. We need to be introspective, to listen, to honestly evaluate how we can do better, and to thoughtfully develop recommendations for an action agenda to make change.
As our next step in advancing and coordinating this work, I am announcing today that Bridgewater State University will soon be forming a Special Presidential Task Force on Racial Justice. This Task Force is charged with conducting an inclusive process involving students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni with the purpose of developing a set of recommendations about how BSU will further infuse racial justice into all aspects of university life. I will be sharing further details with the campus community about the Task Force in the near future.
Also, I am announcing that we will dedicate the entire 2020-21 academic year to the issue of racial justice. Under the leadership of the Martin Richard Institute for Social Justice, we will develop a series of forums, events and discussions that will engage the entire BSU family in this important work. This is just the beginning.
Now more than ever, as a community, we need to recognize that if any one of us fails to live up to our values, we have all failed. If any one of us fails to apply urgent action to solving the issues of race that have caused so much pain and suffering, we have all failed. If any one of us demonstrates hate and ignorance, we have all failed.
Bridgewater State University always has and always will actively pursue truth and understanding as we activate our values of diversity, inclusion and equality.
Frederick W. Clark Jr., Esq.