MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In a letter to the University, West Virginia University Preside E. Gordon Gee said he was “sad, angered and frustrated” by the death of George Floyd and countless of others in the Black community before him.
Gee said in his letter that he wanted to make clear that WVU will not tolerate any form of racism, discrimination or bias on any of its campuses. The University president also said he wants to use WVU as a tool for dialogue to help foster a conversation about tolerance and inclusivity.
I often think of us as the weavers, you know the social fabrics of our nation are getting really torn apart and someone has to be a weaver and that has to be our university and our university family. And by that I mean bringing people together, reweaving the social contract, talking about issues that in this instance particularly our black community is confronting and then to make sure that we all confront it together. It cannot be one segment of our society or one segment of our university, we all have to confront it together.E. Gordon Gee – President, West Virginia University
Gee said in these times he leans on the core Mountaineer values of: Service, Curiosity, Respect Accountability and Appreciation. He said he also leans on his firm belief that higher education will help create the very necessary dialogues to bring about change that need to continue when the media lights begin to fade.
WVU’s president said he is making sure that these values are understood by all in the University body. In fact, he said, WVU’s Vice President for Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has spoken to the WVU Police Department’s chief to make sure everyone is on the same page and that he is happy to report they are.
There have been many WVU students participating in protests recently in Morgantown and Gee said he supports their right to express their voice. He went even further by saying WVU will support these students if they elect to continue protesting in the fall.
“Our students have always had the right to gather and protest peacefully and we will continue to support that right,” Gee said. “We have no — we have had a number of protests on our campus and I will say with great pride that they have all been very peaceful and very constructive.”
The hope is that all students, faculty and staff feel that they are in a place where they are welcomed and wanted, Gee said. In this instance, it’s the African American community that is directly impacted, but there are also Hispanic, Asian American and international students who all have struggles and need to feel embraced as well when students return to school this fall.
“I think this is a time for our university to reflect on not only these issues but to make certain that we are doing everything to combat racism and to be clear about our intent to be a positive force for change and a positive force for opportunity,” Gee said.