Dear Hiram Community:
I write today with some sense of hope in the wake of this week’s unanimous jury verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd. After nearly a year of uncertainty and anticipation, a jury delivered justice to Mr. Floyd’s immediate and global family, an outcome that puts injustice and police brutality on notice and reinforces the call to action to eliminate systemic racism. The hope that this verdict brings, however, should not blind us to the trauma that many people, especially people of color, have experienced over the past year as the constant replaying of Floyd’s murder has reminded us of this horrendous act of violence. Nor should this verdict lessen our efforts to eliminate systemic racism both at Hiram and in the society at large. It was an unusual and admirable step for the Minneapolis police department to condemn Chauvin’s actions, but we can’t let that turn Floyd’s murder into an isolated action by a rogue individual, instead of an action rooted in the 400-year history of systemic racism in America. As we continue to move forward, let us be bold enough to envision a world without racial or other identity stigmas and courageous enough to work towards that end.
This should be a time of reflection, contemplation, and healing for our community as we support each other in processing both Floyd’s murder and Chauvin’s conviction, along with the many acts of hatred and racism that we have seen recently. I want to make sure that anyone in need of personal support is aware of resources that are available on campus. Professional counseling services are available for students by contacting Dr. Kevin Feisthamel at FeisthamelKP@hiram.edu or calling 330.569.5418 to schedule an appointment. A 24-hour community crisis phone line is also available at 1.800.273.8255 or you can text 741741. Ministerial counseling services are available for students, staff, and faculty by appointment with Rev. Chris McCreight, the College chaplain, at McCreightCJ@hiram.edu. For faculty and staff, details regarding the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) are located under the Important Information section of the Human Resources tab in the My Hiram Portal. This is a free resource available to all faculty and staff. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is staffed to provide resources and services to those interested in more extensive conversation and engagement around issues pertaining to diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, anti-racism and bias. Please contact Dee West at Westde@hiram.edu or 330.569.5237.
Also, all members of the Hiram community are invited to join the Black Student Union and Student Senate on Friday, April 23, 2021 at 4:30 p.m., in a virtual vigil to unite our voices around the importance of securing human rights and safety for all.
To quote one of my favorite philosophers, Emmanuel Levinas, most of whose family was killed in the Holocaust, each of us needs to be “for others, in spite of myself, from myself” as we strive for peace.
Thanks for all you do.