To our Black Students Faculty, Staff and Alumni

In the spirit of transparency and open dialogue, I’m inviting our entire SMU community to read this message.

To our Black Students, Faculty, Staff and Alumni:

Like you, I am outraged at the killing of George Floyd, following those of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and countless other black men and women before them. Sadly, these recent events have brought back memories of painful racist encounters many of you experienced on our campus. My words in an earlier email did not adequately express my anger at another senseless death of a black person, and for that I apologize. Allow me to be clear... Black Lives Matter. You matter.

As one who has committed my career to combatting racial inequality and injustice on college campuses, the negative experiences shared through #BlackAtSMU are a stark reminder that we still have a lot of work to do. It grieves me to read them because this is not what we envision for SMU.

Your recollections confirm the need to intensify the work started in 2015 by our black student leadership at another pivotal time in our nation’s history. These young leaders generated 10 goals for the University to improve the lives of black students, faculty and staff on campus, and began meeting with me and my senior leadership team every two weeks for the first year, then monthly in subsequent years, because it's important to listen and learn first. The subsequent creation of CIQ@SMU, the Bias Reporting System and the cultural intelligence training of all new undergraduate students, student-athletes and faculty members, as well as those students participating in fraternity and sorority recruitment, was a starting point, but clearly we have more work to do.

We need to take action now; therefore, I’m inviting you to join me for a series of Zoom meetings next week. This is a time for you to share the ways in which we can strengthen the original framework of the 2015 plan, and any new issues you believe are essential for us to discuss. In our first Zoom meeting, I am inviting leaders of the black student organizations to join me at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9. On Wednesday, June 10 at 9 a.m., I hope that our black faculty members will join me in sharing their experiences and concerns. At 2 p.m. on June 10, I am inviting staff members of the Black Faculty and Staff Association, and at 4 p.m. on June 10, I am inviting members of the Black Alumni of SMU Board to do the same. I encourage you to contribute to the topics for discussion by sending your ideas and questions to the Black At SMU Forum site.

As president of SMU, there is no greater goal for me than to have a University community in which racial equality and inclusion are demonstrated in all aspects of our lives together. We will listen. We will act. We will never stop trying.

R. Gerald Turner
R. Gerald Turner