A Message from the Dean: On the Death of Minneapolis Resident George Floyd

Dear Law School Community:

For some time now, our nation has been struggling with issues of race, law, and justice, especially a number of upsetting incidents of people of color being killed under the guise of public safety. Unfortunately, the latest national tragedy involving fatal, race-related violence against an unarmed black man, George Floyd, occurred right here in the Twin Cities. Since our community is still healing from the shooting of Philando Castile in 2016, the death of Mr. Floyd is particularly painful to us all. I am deeply saddened and, quite frankly, frightened by this most recent yet all-too-familiar turn of events.

As President Gabel’s powerful message reminds us, our institutional values, those that define Minnesota Law and that define our profession, are challenged at times like these. But we will not be complacent. We can all advocate for a world in which safety and human rights are not dependent on one’s race or ethnicity. And, as Minnesota’s flagship law school, we have a responsibility to support the Twin Cities community—through our clinics, courses, internships, policy engagement, and scholarship. We must look for opportunities, where we can, to bring about positive change; to exercise leadership, to make difference; and to help promote true justice.

While I wish that I could say we won’t see another similar tragedy in the future, I cannot. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that the path to change will require us to learn from each other and from experts, to talk honestly and openly together, to listen with open minds, and, ultimately, to change existing policies, practices, and perspectives. Accordingly, I will be holding a virtual panel soon, along with the Diversity and Belonging Committee, on police violence and the law (more details to come soon). If any of you (students) need support, please reach out to our Student Affairs team. For faculty and staff, please connect with the University’s Employee Assistance Program.

While I grieve and process my anger, I’m also mindful of how fortunate we are to be at a place where (for almost 132 years) students, faculty, and staff come together because they believe in the power of the law to advance justice, make social change, and advance the human condition. Our graduates are empowered by what they’ve learned and who they’ve learned it with to create change in communities across the globe. Our country so desperately needs more of that, more of you, more of us.

In peace and solidarity,

Garry W. Jenkins
Dean & William S. Pattee Professor of Law