We are going to keep this statement brief. Words are failing all of us in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. When leaders reach for words like outrage, horror, or despair, they only do more damage when they are not matched by action. As James Baldwin once famously said, “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”
So, no words without action. We are determined to keep George Mason University true to its motto, to be a place of “freedom and learning.” We will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure every member of Mason Nation, and every visitor to our campuses, is safe: physically safe, emotionally safe, culturally safe, and intellectually safe, to become who they want to be.
To do that, today we directed the senior leadership of Mason to conduct a thorough review of our academic, research, public service, student service, campus law enforcement, and alumni offerings that contribute to social justice, racial equity, and peaceful conflict resolution. And we have directed them also to root out areas where we have fallen short of our intentions, through either conscious or unconscious bias.
Where we have services and expertise to offer a hurting, grieving community, we will step up – to the Mason community, to northern Virginia, to the national capital region, and beyond. We simply will not allow this moment to divert Mason from the long-standing pursuit of access to excellence, which is our ultimate tool to fight the perpetuation of racism.
And where we learn we have failed the diverse community we so proudly serve, we will direct necessary resources to fill the void. The COVID-19 pandemic has put us under unprecedented financial duress, but nothing is more strategically or morally vital to our future than truly living up to our mission to be an “inclusive academic community committed to creating a more just, free, and prosperous world.”
In the weeks and months ahead, we will have more to say about what we have to offer to advance social justice and healing, and about what changes we will make to improve how Mason will better serve the community and the nation as a whole. We invite you to stay tuned and be prepared to act with us.
Our nation is fighting two pandemics – the COVID-19 virus, and the pandemic of racism in America. George Mason University will address both with the same vigor and sense of urgency.
Anne Holton, Interim President
Greg Washington, President-designate