A Message from the Dean: George Floyd and the Fight for Justice

Dear Law School Community:

Simply put, this is a terrible moment for the Twin Cities, during a terrible time. George Floyd suffered a maddeningly horrendous and senseless death, and the ensuing unrest has rocked our community. And, what started locally has expanded and roiled our country in the last few days, demonstrating the shared pain felt by many.

For me, this past week has been hard: my emotions have ranged from shock to sorrow to anger to fear to pain to frustration.

I wanted to share with you two important statements that I hope you will take time to read. First, our Black Law Students Association (BLSA) has prepared a statement for our Law School community. I want to thank the BLSA leaders for crafting this beautiful and powerful statement. Second, Humphrey School of Public Affairs Dean Laura Bloomberg and I jointly prepared a commentary, published in MinnPost today. We consider this our public commitment to double down on the work that we—our nation, our community, our school—need to undertake to achieve the peaceful and just society that we all deserve. It is a small step, but it is a start.

Our mission at the University of Minnesota Law School is to educate lawyer-leaders who make a difference to people, organizations, the profession, and the world. I hope you will all stand with me in acknowledging the deep, troubling, and systemic inequities in this country, as well as dedicating ourselves to making the changes necessary to address injustice. The Law School can’t solve this problem on our own, but we can contribute to meaningful advances. In fact, in many ways—known and unknown—members of our community are already working directly on these issues and will continue to do so. Our clinics, which have long-been deeply connected to and in service to our community, will expand its efforts. We also seek to bolster our research and understanding of the problems and potential solutions. I look forward to sharing more details in days and weeks ahead. And, I look forward to working collaboratively with our faculty, staff, and students on more and new ideas and initiatives to bring our skills, ideas, knowledge, and resources to bear.

Justice for Mr. Floyd will largely depend on local public officials (several of whom are graduates of Minnesota Law) who will investigate and prosecute the case. But, broader justice for black Americans, for all people of color, for other marginalized groups, for the America of our highest ideals will depend on all of us, working collaboratively, to change institutions and practices so that equity and equality are fully realized.

In normal times we would be gathering as a community in solidarity. Of course, the fact that we are on summer break and still in the midst of a global pandemic prevents us from doing so. But, we can join together in recommitting ourselves to creating a more just and inclusive society, here in Minnesota and beyond. We can join with those of good will in supporting our community, in advancing a vision of equity that extends to all, and in exhibiting the humanity that we wish had been shown to George Floyd.

Please stay safe, stay healthy, stay committed to justice.

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