The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Dean Scott Beardsley today (May 31) became the first prominent business school dean to speak out on the racial issues prompting major protests and violence in the U.S. Calling the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis “unjust” and “symbolic of the ongoing killing of and discrimination against black people and other minorities in the history of this country,” he maintained that the Darden School of Business condemns “racism in all its forms.”
Beardsley issued his statement in the aftermath of protests in dozens of American cities, writing to the Darden community with “a heavy heart.”
“At times like these,” he added, “many may feel overwhelmed, anxious, grief-stricken, powerless, lonely, frustrated, exasperated and/or angry. While it may not be in our power to change the United States’ and the world’s problems overnight, it is possible for each and every one of us to make a difference.”
The full text of his statement appears below:
Dear Members of the Darden Community:
Within an already challenging context, I write to you this weekend with a heavy heart as we watch events unfold across the world.
This week, the unjust death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — symbolic of the ongoing killing of and discrimination against black people and other minorities in the history of this country — has sparked more than 75 protests across the U.S., and global rallies in London, Berlin and Toronto. Some of the protests have unfortunately resulted in violence; others, like the one here in Charlottesville yesterday afternoon, have been peaceful.
At this time, it is important that we be clear: We at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business condemn racism in all its forms. Critical to our mission to inspire responsible leaders is the value of an inclusive community that enables its global and diverse members to collaborate and excel. That value is more important now than ever.
In my virtual graduation speech, I asked, “What do you value?” This is a moment when we can each reflect on that question. I value many things, but one thing that is very important to me is to aspire to give students, faculty and staff members the opportunity to achieve their full potential, unencumbered by discrimination and bias resulting from race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic position or political ideology. I believe education can be a great equalizer in our society and a beacon for the values of inclusion and equity, and I acknowledge the forces that often work to obscure that beacon.
My dream and our ambition is that a Darden education can take someone from anywhere to anywhere, and that the responsible leaders we develop are able to carry forward rays of hope and opportunity to all parts of our society and world. This week reminds us of the need for responsible leaders to stand up, speak out and actively and peacefully oppose racism and bias in our world. We must strive to be inclusive as opposed to simply “not racist.”
The events this week and of the past few months remind us that we must come together — across all walks of life — to make the world a better place. At times like these, many may feel overwhelmed, anxious, grief-stricken, powerless, lonely, frustrated, exasperated and/or angry. While it may not be in our power to change the United States’ and the world’s problems overnight, it is possible for each and every one of us to make a difference. We at Darden are privileged to work and study at one of the world’s greatest universities, and must consider how we will make a difference in the world by being responsible leaders. We don’t get to choose our context, but each of us does have the freedom — indeed, the responsibility — to determine how we live our lives and act in response to life’s circumstances. When it comes to living our values of a diverse and inclusive community, we each have the chance to choose: love over hate; unity over exclusion; assumption of positive intent over accusation; problem solving over indifference; and defining the future over being defined by the past. While we live in a world of great uncertainty, we can be certain of one thing: racism is not the solution to our world’s problems.
This past week at Darden, the Executive MBA Faculty held a meaningful dialogue with students about the issues at hand. We are also in touch with student leaders in the full-time MBA and MSBA and will work with them to convene appropriate virtual dialogues in the days ahead. This morning, UVA President Jim Ryan commented on the matter. I also urge you to read the recent blog post from Martin Davidson, our Global Chief Diversity Officer. He provides clear steps on how we can begin to grow our awareness as leaders and helps contextualize this moment in history.
In these challenging times, I encourage you to live your Darden values and to be a positive force for good. Business, education, and individual action can be forces for good. Offer comfort, support and love to those who face fear, discrimination and hatred. Have hope, courage and persistence and help others do the same. Together, we will fulfill our mission, and we will make the world a better place.