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Reflections on Yesterday’s Verdict

Clothier bell tower against blue sky with clouds. Red flowers in foreground.

President Valerie Smith sent the following message to the community on Wednesday, April 21:

Dear Students, Alumni, Faculty, and Staff Members,

Like so many of you, yesterday I watched as Judge Peter Cahill announced that Derek Chauvin had been found guilty of murder in the death of George Floyd.

Although this verdict can never truly bring justice for Mr. Floyd and his family, it signals the impact of a powerful social movement — a movement rooted in a generations-long struggle that gained renewed intensity and momentum last summer. As a result, law enforcement and judicial systems — which have historically failed to deliver justice to the country’s Black citizens who have suffered at the hands of police — might be ripe for change. This decision may also strengthen efforts to establish new standards for accountability and the use of force, which are essential if we are to improve the relationships between police and the communities of color they are sworn to serve and protect. 

But this verdict is not an end in itself. We need look no further than the violence carried out across the country during this trial to see that the fight against racism, xenophobia, and the scourge of gun violence persists. Daunte Wright, a Black man, killed by police during a recent traffic stop. Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Latino boy, shot as he lifted his hands in the air in response to a police officer’s command. Eight people killed when a gunman opened fire at a FedEx warehouse, where four of the victims were Sikh. By some counts, this last is just one of 45 mass shootings in the United States during the past month alone. These are but the latest in a seemingly endless list of victims that serves as a reminder that our march to a more just, equitable, and safe society continues. We must dedicate ourselves anew to the struggle for lasting, meaningful change. 

As an institution of higher learning, Swarthmore College is committed to contributing to that change — by continuing to foster an environment in which students can engage in deep, thoughtful, and frank conversations about the challenges facing our society. This shared and vital work can and will continue to ensure we provide a transformative liberal arts education grounded in fearless intellectual inquiry.  

Engaging in these struggles takes a toll on us individually, and as we take care of one another, we must also take care of ourselves. Please remember that College resources are available to support you. Counseling and Psychological Services provides a range of services to all students. Faculty and staff members may explore the resources offered by our employee assistance program, Carebridge. Finally, each of the College’s medical insurance plans through Independence Blue Cross includes mental health benefits through Magellan. Both Carebridge’s and Magellan’s services are secure and confidential.

Now and always, I wish you peace and strength.


Val Smith

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