A Message from Incoming Dean Fernando R. Miralles-Wilhelm
Dear COS colleagues:
I am writing to check-in with you and share a few thoughts. This is a trying week, both across the university and within the communities where our lives and work intersect.
George Mason continues to monitor and adjust to the evolving global impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of human health and safety, economic impacts and operations continuity. As we prepare to start a new fiscal year that sets us on a course for a material decline in revenues to support our academic programs and operations, plans are starting to emerge to deal with the financial strain. I am confident we will find a path forward in COS and across Mason.
I want to take a moment and reflect on what has been yet another historically tragic week in racial relations in the US. The callous indifference and excessive force exercised one week ago by a police officer in Minneapolis which led George Floyd to plead for his life for several minutes prior to his death was not an isolated or random event. It is simply one of the more graphic, well chronicled events of a pattern of systemic, racially-based oppression in a country which claims to hold all men and women equal.
Slavery was abolished in the US in 1865, militarily and constitutionally at a dear price. Yet, Black people in America have never been able to live a day since then without fear, let alone equality. Those of us, myself included, who have never yet lived a single day in our lives with these feelings due to our implied or explicit privilege are called to account for what we are now witnessing. Now, 155 years later, the embers of racially motivated injustice have not been extinguished, a full reconciliation with reparations not yet made. The national political rhetoric is not properly empathetic to the rightful concerns and protests for change and has instead played a divisive role in inciting violent activists from both ends of the political spectrum to opportunistically create an unsafe situation for peace officers and citizens. While still in the midst of dealing through the painful consequences of a global pandemic, the miscarriage of social justice at a societal level is another test to our character and resolve.
I am writing to you today because I feel you deserve to know where I stand on these issues. Generations of dysfunction and injustice will not easily be resolved, but I am deeply committed to working along side you for this cause, as long as it takes, whatever the effort. It must start with the basics – what we choose to observe and experience. It can grow to what we can think, say and do. Together, we can choose to thoughtfully reconcile our sphere of influence. We must seek diversity, equity and inclusion in the broadest sense within this sphere of influence. We can share resources and create opportunities which transcend traditional science education and research priorities. And, we must seek a more impactful role by asking the question together: what can our college do differently at this moment in time to move towards a brighter future? Answering this question will be part of the conversations we will be having as we embark on a strategic plan for our college.