May 25, 2021 | Atlanta, GA
Today marks exactly one year since the death of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin. The former Minneapolis police officer was convicted on all counts of Floyd’s murder this past April.
The high-profile death of Floyd, who was pinned under Chauvin’s knee for nine minutes and 29 seconds, still brings anguish for many across the world who were already monthslong into the depths of a global pandemic. For some, it provided reason to finally acknowledge that systemic racism and racial violence have been deeply embedded into our nation’s fabric for centuries.
My thoughts last spring were captured in Commitment to Drive Change. One year later, I am still wrapped with sadness and sometimes anger, but I can optimistically reflect on the many changes I have seen around the world and, particularly, within our campus community.
Immediately after May 25, 2020, units across the Institute issued statements denouncing racism and pledging solidarity with the Black community. Campus offices hosted candid discussions on race and its systemic injustices. My office, Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, launched the Race at Georgia Tech discussion series and our Education and Training unit has worked diligently to provide increased diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings to meet high campus demand.
Last November, under the direction of President Ángel Cabrera, we launched the Georgia Tech Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council (GTDEIC) to identify issues of campus racial and gender disparity, bias, and inequity. Since then, the Council has actively monitored and assessed Tech’s progress toward achieving the DEI objectives that undergird our vision for a welcoming and inclusive campus community for all students, staff, and faculty. Earlier this year, the GTDEIC and issue-area campus experts began working to create a DEI blueprint plan to create an equitable and inclusive community; to recruit, retain, and develop a diverse community; and to support innovative and inclusive scholarship and teaching. President Cabrera will reveal this plan later this year.
In March, the campus decried the murder of eight victims at three spas in the metro Atlanta area – six of whom were Asian women. The horrifying string of events on that day stirred considerable conversation and action against Asian hate and violence. The Division of Student Life hosted one of Tech’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month series of events a month later.
This past April – one day after the conviction of Chavin – we dedicated a space of healing in the new EcoCommons area. On the site of the former Pickrick Restaurant, where its segregationist owner forcibly and unlawfully removed Black patrons despite the then-fresh passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, we honored the bravery of the three Black seminary students who attempted to break down the walls of injustice there. The architectural design of this area is intended to inspire reflection and connections, both with nature and with others.
Finally, many around campus are preparing to recognize the 60th anniversary of the matriculation of the Institute’s first Black students this September. In 2019, the Institute honored these three pioneers, and its first Black graduate, with the installation of bronze statues on campus. Our focus for the future is to build upon the momentum we have established toward making the Georgia Tech community a place where our people are treated fairly and included.
I know we have a long road to travel, but these campus developments since last spring bring me some solace that we are headed in the right direction on our journey toward meaningful change to eradicate racial injustice. As members of the Georgia Tech community, we all have a duty to deliver upon its mission to develop leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. We can only achieve this by leveraging our diversity as an asset to capitalize our human potential.
Archie W. Ervin, Ph.D.
Vice President, Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion