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Office of the President

A time for reflection and action

Dr. Steven W. Shirley
President, Minot State University
Published June 13, 2020 in the Minot Daily News

Our great nation has been through some trying times the past few months. The continuing impact of COVID-19 has touched our lives in many ways. And now, with the recent killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, essential and overdue conversations are happening across our country. George Floyd’s senseless death, the ensuing reactions, protests, and marches, and the current national dialogue has caused me to think more carefully about the role we have at Minot State during these extraordinary times.

Universities have long been places where further exploration of complex subjects and expressions of protest have occurred. Campuses have played an important role as students have demonstrated and voiced their opinions on subjects such as racism, sexism, civil rights, the 1970s anti-war movement, freedom of speech, sexual assault, poverty, immigration, and many other key issues throughout our nation’s history. We must continue embracing opportunities to provide spaces where students and others can come together to share thoughts, voice opinions, and discuss the most important and challenging issues of the day, especially in a peaceful setting respecting the rights of all involved.

In reflecting on the brutality of George Floyd’s death, I am mindful of MSU’s role in helping foster positive change, supporting our students, fighting the evils of racism and prejudice, and providing an outlet for expression and dialogue. As just a sampling, MSU has an active campus Diversity Council that hosts a full complement of educational events throughout the year; is home to one of the few Native American Cultural Centers at any North Dakota college campus; hosts a “Campus and Community Dialogues” series that regularly brings people together to discuss some of society’s most complex subjects; has broadened our student diversity the past decade with expansion of international and nonresidential students; annually hosts one of the largest Native American Pow-Wows in the Midwest; in conjunction with our LGBTQ+ student club, adopted a new gender inclusive campus housing policy last year; annually hosts an International Mother Language Day to celebrate the vibrancy of languages spoken at MSU; and hosted an event last fall, “How Can We Be Antiracist?,” featuring several MSU students and alumni of color as panelists.

Moreover, with law enforcement now in the spotlight, I would be remiss not mentioning our Criminal Justice program. MSU has graduated CJ majors for decades who have gone on to a variety of law enforcement careers helping protect and serve us all. Advanced education and training are key components to creating a more just and fair society, and we are proud of MSU’s rich history in Criminal Justice and our many outstanding graduates serving locally and across the continent in these critical careers.

As events of the past few weeks have shown, however, there is more we all can and must do. Inequality and racism cannot be tolerated. It is up to each of us to look at ourselves and our organizations and see what additional proactive measures can be taken. Every one of us has a role to play in creating positive social change, breaking down racial barriers, eliminating negative stereotypes, eradicating bias and discrimination, and implementing policies and actions to ensure opportunities and fairness for all, no matter a person’s race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, age, religion, or disability. By doing so, I know we can make Minot State University better than it is today and help make our society better as we strive for a more perfect union.

I look forward to our students and the broader MSU community returning so we can continue these conversations on campus and look for more ways to implement change and improve. MSU’s strategic plan, Empowering Generations, guides us to prepare students for the evolving social challenges of the world, dedicate ourselves to public service, and promote a vibrant and inclusive campus community. These cannot just be words, they take actions to achieve. It is a difficult time in our country right now, but also a time full of opportunity. We all have work to do and room for improvement, so let’s get after it.

As always.....Go Beavers!