JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - The last several days have tested the resolve of Americans and A-State students alike, with A-State Chancellor Kelly Damphousse saying in a letter to African-American students on campus that the deaths of three unarmed black Americans have been an unimaginable loss.
In a news media advisory released Monday, June 1, Damphousse announced he plans to take action.
“My cabinet and I are dedicated to actively seeking ways to remove any barriers to success that exist at Arkansas State,” the letter states. “We must all look at everything that we are doing at A-State to be certain we are creating equal opportunities for all, and that starts today.”
“The first step is to give voice to those who are unheard. To that end, we are scheduling a series of virtual Town Hall meetings to give voice to students, faculty, staff, and alumni who might be able to identify blind spots for us. Dr. Maurice Gipson, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement, will moderate the meetings, and members of my cabinet will also attend. We will not be listening to reply, but listening to learn and listening to improve.”
“We can no longer ignore the problem, nor can we presume that the problem only exists somewhere else,” the letter continues. “Just as A-State changes the lives of the people who serve and who learn here, we must take advantage of our position as the educational and cultural leaders of our region to also change the lives of the people in our community, in our region, in our state, and in our nation.”
“To our Black students, faculty, and staff: As angry as I am about what I have observed over the past few weeks (and longer, to be honest), I cannot know what you are feeling. Even though these deaths occurred miles away from our campus, I know that each of these recent evil events must strike deeply with you because you closely identify with the victims. While I know that intuitively, I also know that I will never fully understand the depth of your pain or your fear.”
Damphousse previously commented on the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in a letter sent to students on May 29.
“In a perfect world, I would be asking you to come meet with me to talk about the tragic days our nation, but especially the Black community, has been facing this past month (and beyond). But we clearly do not live in a perfect world - and it grieves me to say that because, like you, I so yearn to live in a perfect world. So, that means I am only to be able to reach out to you virtually,” Damphousse said. “In the past few weeks, I have watched in horror the deaths of unarmed Black Americans in our country. From Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia to Breonna Taylor in Kentucky to George Floyd in Minnesota, I mourn that each of these individuals lost their lives prematurely. My wife, Beth, and I have prayed for their families and loved ones. They have experienced an unimaginable loss.”
“Given our own pain about what we are experiencing, we cannot imagine what members of the Black community (especially our students) are feeling. So our prayers have turned recently from those who we do not know to those we do know and love - you. Even though these deaths occurred miles away from our campus, I know that each of these tragedies must strike deeply with you because you closely identify with the victims. While I know that intuitively, I also know that I will never fully understand the depth of your pain or your fear. I can only say that I hear you, that I cherish you, and that I remain committed to doing everything that I can to keep you safe and and to make sure you that you have all of the help that you need. Even though you are away from campus, you are an integral part of the Red Wolf pack and the university stands ready to support you any way that we can. I stand with you,” Damphousse wrote.
In the letter, Damphousse also said he is working with Dr. Maurice Gipson, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement, to set up a virtual town hall meeting on the issue.
Damphousse also told students that the university’s Counseling Center is also open for students.
“My young friends, I confess that I am at a loss for words today (a rarity for me), I do not know what to say or how to lighten your load, except to say that I love you and that I hurt for you,” Damphousse wrote.