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Leadership Statements

Recent events have led campus leaders to reaffirm Drake’s commitment to its Statement of Principles and to speak out on issues impacting our community.

Marty Martin – President

Standing for Justice

Dear colleagues and students,

George Floyd died one week ago today, handcuffed and pinned to the ground by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis Police Department. The video of the arrest shows Officer Chauvin with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck while Mr. Floyd pleads with the officer, telling him that he is in pain and that he cannot breathe, before he calls out for his mother. Officer Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than two minutes after Mr. Floyd became non-responsive.

Mr. Floyd was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Center a little over an hour after he was first approached by Minneapolis police officers. He was forty-six years old. He was a son, a brother, a friend, the father of two daughters, and a grandfather to a three-year-old girl. He died telling Officer Chauvin, “I can’t breathe.” He died saying to Officer Chauvin, “please, please, please.” He died calling out to his deceased mother.

Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, and he and the three other Minneapolis police officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death have been fired. While it is commendable that these actions have been taken, it remains heartbreaking and infuriating that Mr. Floyd’s pleas were met with such callous disregard by Officer Chauvin and his fellow officers. This is made all the more heartbreaking and infuriating by the fact that Mr. Floyd is not the first Black man to die while telling a police officer, “I can’t breathe.”

We can and we must do better. This is required of every single one of us and every single institution in this country. Justice demands that we all do our part to confront and overcome the legacy of bigotry that motivates an Officer Chauvin to put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and keep it there as Mr. Floyd’s life is extinguished.

This institution and its people – faculty, staff, students, and alumni – have worked and will continue to work to stamp out bigotry and intolerance, to make our campus and our communities welcoming and safe for all. Indeed, we demonstrated our willingness to be in this fight together nearly two years ago with the Paint It Black movement. Drake University is committed to equity and inclusion and we will – through education, scholarship, service, and advocacy – strive to be part of whatever it takes to ensure that the right to life and liberty is not denied to anyone because of the color of her or his skin.



Brian Hardin – Director of Athletics

A statement from Brian Hardin, Director of Athletics

One of the Bulldog Way’s foundational lines is that ‘we desire the best for and expect the best from each other.’

Recent events in our nation and community have painfully revealed that we, as a society, have again failed to uphold and live those values. The death of George Floyd and countless other systematic acts of oppression and injustice toward people of color throughout our nation’s history is beyond tragic and must stop.

Racism and acts of racial injustice have no place in our communities and certainly not on our campus. To bring about the change that is truly needed, we must all begin by having the challenging conversations with one another so we may better understand someone else’s life experiences.

To our Black student-athletes and coaches of color: I am committed to listening to you, to supporting you, and to being part of the solution.

I urge us to unite as bulldogs during this time to not only support each other but to lead and identify how we can make this painful time in our history, and the many that have come before it, a moment to affect the real institutional change that is needed. Together, let’s reshape our society into one that truly desires the best for and expects the best from each other.

–Brian Hardin, Director of Athletics

Kathleen Richardson – Dean, Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communication

A strong message from the dean:
Stay strong. Stay focused.

Watching the streets of our country erupt in protest and violence over the past week has unleashed a torrent of emotions: Anger. Anxiety. Anguish. Fear. Frustration. Profound sadness.

And sometimes hope, as we see people representing the rainbow of our nation come together in solidarity against institutional racism and injustice.

During this crisis, we also turn more frequently to our trusted sources of information, especially local news organizations. We are proud of our friends, our media colleagues, our alumni — journalists who are on the front lines, doing the difficult and dangerous work of keeping us informed about what is going on in our communities

Now more than ever, if we aren’t part of the solution, we are part of the problem What role can we play — as individuals, as professionals, as an SJMC community - in building the future we want, we need and we deserve?

As always, I welcome your comments, questions, concerns, and suggestions.

— Kathleen Richardson, dean
Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Jerry L. Anderson – Dean, Drake University Law School

The brutal death of George Floyd, along with countless other incidents of racial injustice, has affected our Drake Law community profoundly. I know that many of us have had, and continue to have, a lot of anger, pain, frustration, grief, bewilderment, and many other strong emotions.  I also know that, as a community knowledgeable about and deeply invested in the legal system, we have an enhanced responsibility to help our nation navigate this crisis.

I am old enough to remember the 1960s, which for many of you is ancient history.  As a child, I witnessed the power of public demand for change and the significant progress that can occur in a democratic society when people come together. But here we are, 50 years later, knowing that great steps forward like the Civil Rights Act and other major reforms have not eradicated the problem of racism and inequality. We see over and over that the law alone is ineffective unless every citizen works to make the promise of law meet reality.  

Here at Drake Law, I see many reasons for hope:

  • I am proud of our students, who are finding many a variety of ways to engage on this important problem and use their growing legal knowledge for good.
  • I am proud that Drake Law started the Institute for Justice Reform and Innovation several years ago, focused on identifying and ameliorating systemic racial injustice in our legal system.
  • I am proud of the work our clinical programs do, advocating for clients so often powerless and marginalized by this system, and in training future lawyers to continue to make a difference.
  • I am proud of the programs we have recently established, like the Cady Fellows, designed to increase the number of lawyers from underrepresented groups, so that those in power will better reflect our society.

But we know, also, that there is much more to do, both individually and as part of the Drake Law community. 

I want to share a quote from author James Baldwin, brought to my attention by Dean Renée Hutchins of the University of the District of Columbia Law School:

“If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected – those precisely who need the law’s protection most – and listens to their testimony.”

With that in mind, I resolve to listen more to those who are different from me.  I resolve to speak out more against oppression and injustice.  And, I hope that our Drake Law community can find more ways to discuss these issues of racial justice and equality so that we can better prepare new lawyers who can be part of the solution. I plan to work with students groups, along with our Committee on Equity and Inclusion, in order to support and facilitate those goals.

Please know that we stand with in solidarity with our students of color – we see you, we hear you, and we support you.  We stand with all of those working to make positive change in our society. We share your abhorrence for the brutality inflicted on George Floyd and so many other victims of racial injustice.  I hope that together we can continue this mission to make justice for all a reality for all.

Jerry L. Anderson
Dean and Richard M. and Anita Calkins Distinguished Professor of Law
Drake University Law School

Ryan Wise – Dean, Drake University School of Education

Like many of you, I have struggled to process the events of the past week. The killing of George Floyd, by a white police officer, was yet another tragic example of America’s systemic assault on Black lives.

Schools, like law enforcement agencies, are guilty of perpetuating racism and violence. While we as educators do not wield guns, tear gas, or tasers, we hold the power to keep Black students out of gifted programs and advanced courses and in pipelines to low-wage jobs, limited opportunities and prison-like discipline. And schools and police departments can conspire to derail the promising life prospects of Black kids.

As a white man in a leadership role at a predominantly white institution that trains future teachers, counselors and administrators, I am obligated to listen, lead and use my privilege for the benefit of others. I’m learning from educators of color, like Dr. Mary Rice-Boothe and her searing post “I’m Not Okay.” I’m also taking advantage of resources at Drake University, like these Toolkits for Action on Social Justice.  

But listening and learning is not enough, nor is an individual response to an institutional problem. The burden to speak out and take action must be a collective endeavor and it must not fall only on People of Color. This effort is part of a shared goal to make the School of Education a place to engage in difficult conversations and to serve as a change agent through faculty, staff, student and alumni collaboration.  

This is why I have convened a summer committee, with representation from each of these groups, to determine how we can better demonstrate explicitly anti-racist practices and in turn ensure the educators we train and support are prepared to take the courageous actions needed to dismantle a system of organized oppression. The committee met for the first time today, and I am inspired by the commitment to follow-through and to expand the coalition needed to make progress.

Grounded in our guiding principle of social justice, we will move forward in determined and deliberate ways. While the work won’t always be perfect, our efforts will be resolute and focused on ensuring the next generation does better than our generation in building a racially just and equitable society.

Dr. Ryan Wise, Dean of the School of Education 

Renae Chesnut – Dean, Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

A message from Dean Chesnut:

The recent events that have erupted across our nation have led to a flood of emotions: sadness, frustration, fear, anxiety.  But there are glimmers of hope as we’ve seen people of all backgrounds, including healthcare professionals, come together to address injustice.  While the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences stands against injustice, we realize that we can do more. 

We are reminded that racial disparities in health care is a crisis.  We all have an important role in addressing these disparities in our various communities.  Our alumni, faculty, students, and partners work to better serve patients from all cultures and backgrounds, which has been exemplified in the response of the CPHS family to the current global pandemic.

We are a part of the solution to a wider problem.  To prepare future healthcare professionals to serve and address the unique needs of all populations, the CPHS incorporates cultural competency, healthcare disparity learning, and diverse learning experiences in our various programs.  In addition to the populations we serve, the CPHS is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion for all of our members.  But we must continue to ask ourselves – as professionals, as individuals, as the CPHS community – what more can we do to shape the future of health care for all citizens?

I welcome your questions, concerns, and suggestions.

— Renae Chesnut, dean
Drake University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences

The Harkin Institute

The challenges facing communities of color go far beyond systemic racism in policing. We know the profound impact that poverty, food insecurity, housing discrimination, lack of access to health care, not to mention trauma, have on entire communities, particularly communities of color.

We need to address those in time, but we cannot address those issues until we first address the need for justice and safety for these communities. We stand with people of color in their fight to correct racial injustice in our policing and throughout all aspects of our communities.   

We won’t fix centuries of systemic problems in a couple of days or a couple of weeks, but we can start this important, deliberate work. The Harkin Institute is committed to our mission to foster engagement, promote productive, civil dialogue and push for implementation of sound solutions.

Leadership Education and Development Program (LEAD)

Great leaders inspire others by doing work that makes a difference for those around them. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Whether or not someone has a formal leadership title or position, we all can take actions to improve conditions for those who are victims of systemic oppression.

We continue to take time to reflect upon the recent tragic events. We mourn with the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others who have senselessly suffered at the hands of various authorities. As leaders we also make time to listen, learn, and read as we determine which actions are most important to create conditions for change and justice.

It is imperative that we are committed to a thoughtful and pragmatic approach to lead in a way that is fair, equitable, and just. Our program will continue to assist students to further develop their leadership skills in a way that gives priority to equity and inclusion. Whether it be through our curriculum, experiential learning opportunities, or practical application of the knowledge in our classes and discussions, we want to assist our students to develop their leadership skills for use in being a part of solutions regarding issues of social justice.

Blake Boldon – Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays

A Statement from Franklin P. Johnson Director of the Drake Relays

The Drake Relays stands with the members of the Black community in their fight for justice and equality. For more than a century, we have sought to be a leader of equality in the sport of track & field and the Black community has greatly contributed to our successes. However, just as we have tried to expand our sport beyond the walls of Drake Stadium, we recognize that we must also work to expand the inclusivity that the Blue Oval has come to represent beyond Drake Stadium.

The death of George Floyd, as well as other recent events, have shown all of us associated with the Drake Relays that members of our community still experience the pain of institutional racism and injustice every day. This is unacceptable. We are committed to being part of the solution, and envision a world in which everyone lines up on the same starting line.

–Blake Boldon

Student Alumni Association

Dear Drake community,

We have all witnessed the current events involving racism and the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and know that millions of lives are affected. There is no place for hate in the Student Alumni Association and we understand that silence only aids the oppressor. We have suspended our annual All In campaign in hopes that Drake supporters can spend their time, energy and resources educating themselves on the issue of systemic racism in our country. During this time, we hope you will go all in with us on our commitment to condemning racism.

As the bridge between students and alumni, it is our responsibility to ensure that all of our fellow Bulldogs (and community members as a whole) are living the lives they deserve to live: filled with respect, joy, success and equality. Recognizing that many of us live with the privilege of never experiencing racism firsthand is an important first step. But it is not enough. Just because we will not suffer for our silence, does not give us the right to remain silent.

We hope that all of you will join us in pledging to be better. Many of us benefit from the system that holds others back. We need to stand with those that the United States system has failed. We are not ignorant to our own failings. However, we are committed to continuing to educate ourselves and others, seeking out conversations that are difficult and important, remaining true to our ideals of diversity and inclusion and standing with the Black Community as a whole.

The time has already passed for when justice should have been served. We cannot rewind the clock, but we can move forward with conviction to make change. SAA members have donated in support of DSM NAACP and we encourage others to do the same. Volunteering, donating, protesting, reading, listening, and discussing are all ways to fight for justice. Drake’s Office of Equity & Inclusion has a Social Justice Toolkit with information on identities and how to begin/continue your anti-racist work. There is strength in our unity and compassion. There is also strength in our numbers. Our greatest weapon against injustice is the courage to stand up for what is right together. We hope you will all join us. Thank you.

Together always,
The Student Alumni Association

Andy Verlengia – Director of Alumni Relations

Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. These lives are just a few that represent the violence committed against Black people in America. It is important for the office of alumni relations to deliver a clear statement on this issue.

Shortly after starting my role as director of alumni relations, I had a vital conversation with a Black alumnus discussing instances of racism they experienced while a student at Drake. Through their vulnerability I recognized that many of us experienced our time on campus in very different ways. While I frequently saw only the best of Drake, our Black alumni have felt unseen, unheard, and unsupported. While the past cannot be corrected, it is critical to acknowledge the systemic racism present in our society and work to ensure no student, alum, staff, or faculty member feels they don’t belong in or are unsupported by the Drake community.

As an alumni office we recognize there is much work to do and commit to the following:   

  1. We will finalize the creation of our Black Alumni Association, under the leadership of Alexis Davis JO’12, GR’17, establishing and funding programming that will connect and engage alumni and students who identify as Black, African, African-American, or multi-racial. 
  2. We will continue to ensure that our alumni communications, print and digital, are representative of our increasingly diverse student and alumni populations.
  3. We will collaborate with campus partners to provide programming with the goal of fostering professional relationships between alumni and Black students.
  4. We will make equity and inclusion a regular topic of our staff meetings, providing discussion and action around campus efforts in support of our students and alumni.
  5. We will continue to make it a priority that our alumni relations staff is reflective of the diverse alumni population we serve.

This office stands with the Black community and will help in battling the racism and injustices that have plagued the lives of Black people.


Andy Verlengia, JO’02

Director of Alumni Relations

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