From the President and Vice President for DEI, re: Speaking out for Justice

November 21, 2021

Dear Southern Community:

Friday’s “not guilty” verdict in the murder trial of Kyle Rittenhouse has once again raised troublesome questions about race in America and the equity of our justice system.

As you know, Rittenhouse, 17, was accused of fatally shooting two men and wounding another at a Black Lives Matter rally in Kenosha, Wis., last summer, And next week, closing arguments will be heard in the trial of three white men charged with chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old unarmed Black man, in February 2020, south of Brunswick, Georgia.

Trials such as these, with race-related implications, are a cause of heightened concern and emotions for many, but particularly those in BIPOC communities who have had to endure the effects of injustice and racism throughout their lives. The current judicial proceedings are a reminder, yet again, of the many harsh challenges we face as a nation to end divisiveness, racism and inequality.

At Southern, this is a time to reaffirm our commitment to equity, social justice and anti-racism, which lie at the core of our mission as a diverse public institution. It is once again a time to speak up, take positive action and reach out to your friends, your colleagues, and neighbors of color and show them that you care.

In that spirit, you are invited to join the Racial and Intersectional Justice Group and the Student Activism Committee at a Speak Out! Rally in response to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict at 5 p.m. Monday evening on the patio outside Buley Library.

Also, please make sure that any of our community members who are feeling distressed at this time are aware of the support that is available: counseling services for students and our Employee Assistance Program for staff. Anyone with the need to report discrimination, should contact the Office of Diversity and Equity.

And finally, let us take the opportunity to become engaged and educated on these critical issues that confront us. Drawing on the wealth of resources that higher education offers, let us use our knowledge and talents to educate and transform our campus and the wider community – and in doing so, ensuring equality, inclusion, and respect for all.

Sincerely, 

Joe Bertolino
President

Diane Ariza
Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion