Dr. Turner speaks to the SMU community about the Derek Chauvin trial

Dear SMU Community,

Today Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd. This verdict, which brings to a close a chapter in one criminal proceeding, does not end the unending call for opportunity, justice and healing across our country and on our campus. This is a somber occasion in remembrance of the loss of life that made this trial necessary.

We each come to this point in history with complex emotions. Many of our African American faculty, students and staff, weary of a centuries-old battle to achieve the promise of equal protection under the law, come to the end of this trial knowing that each passing day brings new names and lost lives to grieve. Others, perhaps new to the fight for equality, wonder aloud, “Will anything really change?”

Regardless of where you find yourself in this moment, your University is here to support you, to hear you, and to reinforce our pledge to make SMU a better place for all of us. Toward that end, we are providing a range of options to help us all work through the significance of this verdict and our reactions to it.

We will host a digital town hall to answer the question, “After the verdict, how do we move forward together?” Members of the administration, faculty and staff invite you to join them in making your voice heard by recording a 60-second video via Capsule. Chief Diversity Officer Maria Dixon Hall will send you the link tomorrow (Wednesday) to begin recording your comments.

You can join an all-University Virtual Flash Class to explore the verdict’s impact on our society from noon to 1:15 p.m. Thursday, April 22, sponsored by the University Diversity Council and Dedman School of Law. Faculty members representing the areas of presidential history (Jeffrey Engel), journalism (Karen Thomas) and criminal law (Pamela Metzger) will invite the campus community to examine the “why” and “how” behind the verdict. Registration is required here, and professors are being encouraged to permit students to attend.

Many of you who are involved in various student activities will be invited to meet with your groups to talk and share. And, as always, counseling is available through the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center and the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life.

I do encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. We began our academic year struggling with the shock waves that followed the death of Mr. Floyd, and we are approaching the end of the academic year still locked in the same struggle. But the commitment we’ve made to each other is strong. We are Mustangs, and will move forward together.

Thank you,

R. Gerald Turner

This message was shared with the SMU community April 20, 2021.