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Statement Concerning Protests Nationally and in Worcester

To the Clark University community,

The killing of George Floyd and the protests that have erupted around the country in its aftermath demand the attention and empathy of all of us educated in the values of understanding, respect for others, and a shared community. We unequivocally support our students and all other Americans who are expressing the rights to free speech and free assembly that are enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution, and their demand for a more just society and fairness before the law and the police who embody it. Without change, we cannot end the fear that people of color, especially those who are Black/African Americans, live with daily.

Last night, protests in Worcester against injustices like these led to troubling events that we want to inform you of, and which have led the University to take concerted action. A peaceful protest in downtown Worcester in the early evening was followed by a smaller protest in our Main South neighborhood. The Worcester Police Department responded to the Main South protest with a large number of officers in riot gear and the use of pepper spray. Four Clark students were arrested, among others. We do not at this time know the full circumstances or details of these events. What we do know is that the police actions we have witnessed are unacceptable and a source of dismay to all within our community. We share the anger and concern over these actions.

We therefore are taking the following steps now:

  • First, we must and will provide unequivocal support to our students, including those arrested and charged last night. We are reaching out to these students and offering our full support.
  • We will undertake a comprehensive and thorough investigation of all that occurred last night. We will release the findings of that investigation and the actions we will take in response to those findings.
  • We do not have a contractual relationship with the Worcester Police Department. We are at this time discontinuing use of off-duty Worcester police officers by the University, and suspending the policy that requires a police officer in attendance at large student events.
  • We are immediately initiating a comprehensive evaluation of anti-bias and de-escalation training of our police officers, and other staff.

These actions only begin what we intend will be a transformational Clark dialogue about how to support and protect all people of color among our students, staff, and faculty. We are determined to create a space for meaningful, lasting positive change that addresses systemic racism and violence against people of color and does everything Clark can to lead us toward becoming a stronger, more inclusive, and equitable society. We intend to engage in reflection, discussion, and action that touch all aspects of our mission and practice, including our curriculum and our educational goals.

At this very difficult time, we urge you to keep safe, to care for each other, and commit to real change.

Respectfully,

David P. Angel, President and David B. Fithian ’87, President-elect