Letter from Brown’s senior leaders: Confronting racial injustice

As communities confront ongoing anti-black racism, University leaders wrote to the Brown community to express deep sadness and anger regarding incidents that continue to cut short the lives of black people.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University’s senior leaders shared the following message about confronting anti-black racism and racial injustice with the University’s community of faculty, staff, students on Saturday, May 30, and with all Brown alumni on Monday, June 1.

Confronting racial injustice

Dear Brown Community,

We write to you today as leaders of this university to express first deep sadness, but also anger, regarding the racist incidents that continue to cut short the lives of black people every day.

The sadness comes from knowing that this is not a mere moment for our country. This is historical, lasting and persistent. Structures of power, deep-rooted histories of oppression, as well as prejudice, outright bigotry and hate, directly and personally affect the lives of millions of people in this nation every minute and every hour. Black people continue to live in fear for themselves, their children and their communities, at times in fear of the very systems and structures that are supposed to be in place to ensure safety and justice.

The anger comes from knowing that we have been here before, and in fact have never left. Rallies and protests across the country are raising voices about ongoing injustice in the wake of the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY, and George Floyd in Minneapolis. As a nation, we might have thought there would be some real change after the deaths of Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, both who died in police custody in 2015, a year in which some justice organizations reported more than 100 police shootings of unarmed black people in the United States. And this was after our nation mourned and protested the ongoing epidemic of racism with the 2014 deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and countless others before and after that year.

All of these deaths “launched national conversations” about anti-black racism. And we know that so many in our community keep asking how many times these conversations have to happen before there is real change. We know there are so many in our community hurting and deeply frustrated, and things are made worse by a pandemic that doesn’t allow us to be together and is disproportionately killing black people. We have not been able to gather in some of the ways that usually unite us to build collective understanding, mourn and make calls for action.

We hope that wherever you may be, you seek to effect change in your communities in the ways that make sense for you while preserving your health and safety in this time of COVID-19. And this does not apply only to members of our community residing in the United States. Tragic and traumatic examples of injustice against racial, ethnic and religious minorities persist around the world, resulting in horrific instances of brutality, incarceration and death. Our local and national government leaders need to hear from us as individual constituents in their communities consistently and persistently on issues of racial and ethnic injustice.

As a university, we have tremendous resources in our departments, centers and institutes that can help our community and our society interrogate the persistent and deeply disturbing issues related to race, racism and police violence in America. In the weeks and months to come, we will leverage the expertise of our faculty, staff and students to develop programming, courses and research opportunities designed to advance knowledge and promote essential change in policy and practice in the name of equity and justice.

We are a community that does not condone acts of racism, discrimination or violence. This cannot be accepted as “normal.” We must continue to demand equity and justice for all people, inclusive of all identities. And we must continue to care for and support each other, especially in this time when we are apart.


Christina H. Paxson, President
Richard M. Locke, Provost
Amanda Bailey, Vice President for Human Resources
Andrew Campbell, Dean of the Graduate School
Russell Carey, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy
Barbara Chernow, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration
Cass Cliatt, Vice President for Communications
Shontay Delalue, Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity
Joseph Dowling, Chief Executive Officer, Investment Office
Jack Elias, Senior Vice President for Health Affairs, Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences
Eric Estes, Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services
Eileen Goldgeier, Vice President and General Counsel
Sergio Gonzalez, Senior Vice President for Advancement
Marguerite Joutz, Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President
Larry Larson, Dean of Engineering
Bess Marcus, Dean of the School of Public Health
Kevin McLaughlin, Dean of the Faculty
Jill Pipher, Vice President for Research
Bill Thirsk, Chief Digital and Information Officer
Michael White, Chief Financial Officer
Rashid Zia, Dean of the College