A Message To Our Aggie Community
June 1, 2020
Dear Aggie Community,
George Floyd died violently and unnecessarily a week ago today. On behalf of the entire university community, I expressed our heartfelt condolences to his family on Friday, which thousands of you shared. As a former student at Texas A&M-Kingsville, Mr. Floyd was not only a member of the Texas A&M System family, but also a member of our human family. You answered “here” on his behalf, and we all know how much that means.
Mr. Floyd was far from the first to suffer such a fate, and we all fear he will not be the last if we do not turn our words and our sentiments into action. Words alone, however heartfelt and sincere, are no longer enough. Indeed, I have issued so many statements of grief and support over the years as the leader of major institutions that I have run out of words. The grief and the support are real, to be sure, but I want to join those responses with a plea to meaningful action, action to take seriously these concerns and attempt to address them with all the resources and good will at our disposal.
We are blessed to live in a nation in which we choose our own leaders and, equally importantly, to hold our leaders at all levels of government accountable for those things in which we believe and for which we stand. And we do not stand for what happened in Minneapolis, Cleveland, New York, Dallas, Louisville, Satilla Shores or so many other cities around our nation. To that end, we must work to ensure that every voice in every community is heard, respected and counted. We must work to make the promise of American democracy, of a responsive government by the people and for the people, a reality and not just a Fourth of July slogan.
I believe we at Texas A&M — as members of one of the largest academic communities in the United States — have an opportunity to do our part, to act, to address the systemic racism and violence that is plaguing our nation. To that end, I am committing myself and my entire senior leadership team to work closely with our wonderful student leaders, faculty, staff and members of our greater communities to enhance the capacity of every voice to be heard in our great republic.
Voting is certainly a first step in holding all our leaders, local and national, accountable. The implementation of a major voter registration drive would be a tremendous example of just how we might do that, for example. Throughout our nation’s history, social change has always been driven by those we elect to serve in public office, and we have many great, selfless leaders throughout our nation. We need to ensure that they are supported and rewarded for addressing these major issues.
Today’s students have an opportunity and a responsibility to mobilize their passions to create meaningful and lasting change – and to truly make the difference that Aggies have historically made to this great nation and the world. As a university administration, we will work closely with them on projects like this and others to help effect the change that will allow them to graduate into and serve the kind of nation they want.
This is just one example of the kind of intentional and targeted work that I believe we must undertake, support, encourage and facilitate. We are an academic institution and we also have a major opportunity to do what great academic institutions have always done by helping ourselves and everyone else better understand these issues and devise solutions.
We have collaborated with students and leaders throughout our academic community to address issues that impact communities of color at Texas A&M and the broader communities in which we are located. We were undertaking just such a task when the current pandemic forced us to adjust all our activities. Before the events of recent days, we were planning a panel discussion titled “Toward a Better Texas: Racial Profiling and Human Rights,” which I was to co-host with Dr. Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University. Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, we were forced to postpone the event. As opportunity presents, we will undertake that study, as well as others that help us better understand and better address this great societal challenge.
We also need to keep these issues forefront in all our minds. I look forward to holding a meeting with student leaders of all backgrounds this month, even if it has to happen virtually, to explore more ways in which we can accomplish that.
Throughout its history, Texas A&M has educated and trained hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have contributed to nearly every industry and profession. While there are still many challenges with systematic inequality, we also have an opportunity to take action that will improve the lives and experiences of citizens of color here in our community and elsewhere around the nation and the world. And we must take such action.
As a university, as a community and as a nation, we must remember that our history and our future are informed by the values that guide us and the ideals that shape us. Honor. Integrity. Respect. And selfless service to each other and all of those around us.
It is up to each of us, every day, to take steps to improve our university and our communities. We at Texas A&M will continue to work together to find ways to engage across all of our campuses and university sites. And together, as Aggies, we will take action that leads to a better university, a better community and a better world for everyone.
Michael K. Young