President Herbert's Statement on the Derek Chauvin Verdict
University of New England President James D. Herbert issued the following statement in response to the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.
Dear UNE Community,
Today, a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd in May of last year.
As our country continues to reckon with both historic and ongoing violence against people of color, the verdict in this trial was an important step toward justice. However, the outcome of a single case of police brutality against people of color does not mean that we, as a society, have achieved justice.
The ongoing epidemic of violence was brought to the forefront of the collective American conscience last year following Floyd’s murder. The recent killings of 13-year-old Adam Toledo and 20-year-old Daunte Wright demonstrate that we must redouble our efforts to build a society where people of color do not live in fear while doing ordinary tasks like driving, shopping, or jogging down the street.
As the New York Times reported last Sunday, since testimony began in the Chauvin trial on March 29, at least 64 people have died at the hands of law enforcement nationwide, with Black and Latino people representing more than half of the dead. As of Saturday, the average was more than three killings a day. By any reckoning, that figure is far too high, and we must continue to advocate for the mitigation of deadly force by police. (For perspective, three is the annual rate of police killings in the UK).
As a community, these issues call us to engage head-on in frank conversations. To our faculty and professional staff across the University, I think it is important and appropriate to at least acknowledge what is happening in our society, perhaps at the beginning of class, and to provide an opportunity for your students to speak with you should they wish, even if that is best achieved after class or during office hours. Our students have told us that acknowledging major developments in society can have a profound impact on facilitating honest and thoughtful dialogue. Given the multiple challenges faced by our troubled society, now is not the time to sequester ourselves in our ivory tower. Acknowledging unacceptable conditions is a necessary step along the way to devising and implementing solutions, which I know is something the UNE community is eager to do.
At UNE we believe strongly in our core values including Relentless Inquiry, Boundary Crossing, and Learning Everywhere. We believe that thoughtful and even uncomfortable conversations are essential to the learning process and problem-solving. I urge all of us to engage in deep and honest dialogue about these critical issues. We cannot effect change if we shy away from difficult conversations. I am convinced our only chance to build a more just and equitable society is by having open and honest conversations, united by the common bond of our shared humanity.
James D. Herbert