By Katie Peters, Claire Crittendon & Meghan Carroll– Editors-in-Chief & News Editor
On May 25, the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of then-police officer Derek Chauvin set off nationwide protests, bringing to light racial in- justice and police brutality that Black Americans face. Black Lives Matter (BLM) was established in 2013 following the deaths of two Black men killed by police, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The turmoil did not escape the Lasell University community.
In an email to the community on June 1, President Michael Alexander said, “This moment begs us not only to reflect on broader societal inequalities, but also to examine the ways in which inequalities exist within our own community. Lasell University is not immune to these problems.”
According to Director of the Donahue Institute for Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion Jesse Tauriac, “there have been some changes at a variety of levels” as a result of the protests this summer. “We worked with a group of equity coaches and… specifically focused on the ways in which the university can operate in a more equitable and just manner.”
Senior IC3 student worker Alanis Perez was one of many Lasell students to attend protests for Black lives this summer. “I went to a lot of protests in the Hartford area …. We ended up at Hartford police for one of them and talked to some officers.”
On protest etiquette, Perez said, “We [amplified] the voices of the Black people around us, I’m a white-passing [person of color] but that’s not something you explain to everyone when you see them. So you have to do your part as a white or white-passing person and just be that be that amplifying voice.”
In her role as an IC3 worker, Perez works closely with Tauriac. She said, “I know that Jesse and I were working on events and things and creating videos, but … it still kind of felt like a silence and it shouldn’t be [on] the Chief Diversity Officer to do all the work [for the whole university.]”
Tauriac watched the protests un- fold this summer. “I think it was a very powerful moment that we collectively as a nation were shaken out of our comfort zone,” he says. “As a Black man, Black father and a Black husband, there are ways that this hit very personally for me.”
He mentioned the variety of reasons people took to the streets in protest this summer. Though BLM was the organization that got the most attention, it was not the only group to organize and attend these massive protests.
An article published in Time about a study by The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) was brought up by Tauriac. The research showed that 93% of protests associated with BLM did not result in violence or property destruction.
Many individuals throughout the university have made strides to be more conscious of equality differences throughout the community, according to Tauriac. Despite that, “we absolutely have a far way to go before we can say that we’re living up to the values that we espouse,” he says.
When asked how she thought Lasell could do better, before answering the initial question, senior Hannah Richards said, “First off, let me be clear where I am coming from. I am a white woman, and I recognize that I have privilege. Secondly, I am by no means speaking for the experiences of Black people and people of color.”
She then went on to say, “Lasell must go further than performative social media engagement and make monetary contributions, education investments and internal investigation in faculty, security staff and student misdemeanors.”
“Lasell should invest in racial injustice education and social workers to handle many student emergency/disciplinary events which the campus police usually handle,” Richards continued. “Lasell also needs to listen to and take criticism from the Black people and people of color on campus.”
On September 30, Tauriac will start hosting weekly Diversity, Equity and Inclusion forums. There will be several Real Talk on Race discussions which will begin on Friday, October 2. The Donahue Institute is also planning many virtual programs focusing on race and diversity. For more information, you can contact student activities at firstname.lastname@example.org.