Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A "Note from Liz" on the anniversary of the death of George Floyd and events of the past year.

Liz Tovar Standing

One year ago today, nine minutes changed the world. 

A Black man died under the knee of a white police officer. While it wasn’t new, this death was different. The world said his name. George Floyd. His death was seared into the minds of millions of people all over the world and we collectively called for change.

These nine minutes occurred against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic and during a divisive political time in our country. The events that followed included an attack on our democracy and hate against our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.  More recently, the conflict in the Middle East continues to show our need to come together to understand each other.

As we reflect on the events of the last year, I think about what they have taught us. I believe our university continues to have a critical impact on the lives of our students, faculty, staff, and community. The purpose of higher education in our society is more important now than at any other time in our history.

We have learned:

  • We must look out for each other, supporting all the different groups of people of our institution.

  • It is critical to respect multiple views of issues, cultures, and opinions, especially those different from ours.

  • There is a delicate balance at the intersection of our free speech and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Everyone has the fundamental right to speak up and be heard while also respecting the voices of others. 

  • The institution’s role is to support and educate people without taking a position or giving an opinion.

  • Empathy is critical to our success, and we need to provide resources for growth to succeed in a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world. 

  • The more we focus on listening to and respecting each other, we build a stronger community preparing our students for their next steps. We have to become a more collaborative university.

On this anniversary, I anticipate hearing many people say there hasn't been enough progress. There is truth to this, but I suggest we should first commit to growing ourselves. 

Let’s not wait for someone to tell us to get better, but just take the initiative to be better because it is the right thing to do.

Instead of asking, “Where we are one year later,” I would rather ask, “Where will we be a year from today?”

With this in mind, I ask our campus to pause on this day and take nine minutes.

Take Nine Minutes. 

Take nine minutes to think about your growth and how to be a better neighbor. Pause today to focus on how you will become responsible for the change our community wants and needs.

Ask yourself:

  • Can I familiarize myself with a different culture, religion, or way of life?

  • Do I genuinely respect others no matter who they love, their religion, political affiliation, the color of skin, a disability, or where they come from?

  • Will I be brave enough to ask when I don’t know or understand?

  • Do I assume things about people because of the clothes they wear, a hairstyle, what they eat, or how they speak?

  • Am I pronouncing my neighbor’s name correctly?

  • Do I bully my way to get what I want, or do I work to find consensus with others? 

  • Do I respect my neighbor whether or not I am in their presence?

Take nine minutes today and ask yourself some hard questions. Take nine minutes to grow the University of Iowa by developing yourself. 

This is how we can honor the memory of George Floyd. Let our growth be his legacy—to treat all people with dignity and respect. This is how we learn from the events of the last year and work for a better day. 

Today, take nine minutes to be better Hawkeyes.


Liz Tovar, Ph.D.
Executive officer and associate vice president

Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion