Auburn University President Jay Gogue delivered a message through campus-wide email on Friday afternoon promising to create a task force during his term to "seek meaningful action to confront the pain, fear, systemic racism and injustice faced by the black community."
The letter comes as Americans nationwide protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after George Floyd, an unarmed black male, was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Auburn saw a protest take place on Sunday afternoon at Toomer's Corner, where participants marched to the City's Public Safety building with chants of "No justice; no peace" and "I can't breathe." There, they observed nine minutes of silence to symbolize the nine minutes Chauvin knelt on Floyd.
"The events of the past 10 days have been painful for me and, I'm certain, for every member of the Auburn Family," Gogue said in the letter. "While we all have a lot of questions, it is clear that something has to change, both in society and on our campus."
Gogue said he has listened to black student leaders across campus who have shared their thoughts on Auburn's future in the wake of protests, and he has "[come] away with ... an enhanced sense of urgency for positive change."
The task force will aim to hold the University more accountable on how it approaches black student recruitment, sensitive symbols on campus and development of campus-wide conversations, Gogue said. He hopes members will be able to prioritize confronting these subjects on the University's behalf through feedback from the Auburn Family.
"In the past, Auburn has done some things right, and we've done some things wrong," he said. "We need to do more. We will work together, and we will do better."
Gogue has asked students, faculty and staff to "embrace a number of imperatives" in light of recent protests while the University's task force is formed, listed below.
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- We must be honest with each other and recognize that discrimination against African Americans and other people of color exists and is wrong. There is hate that is festering. We can and must do something about it.
- We must remember that silence is not acceptable. When we see something wrong, we must speak up.
- We must treat all people with respect and civility as individuals, not as groups.
- We must demand that all laws of the land are administered fairly and equally.
- We must listen to the voices of those who have been disenfranchised and do what we can to help.
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