Dear Fordham Law Community,
Today’s conviction of Derek Chauvin is a relief and makes me hopeful for our future. We have all been on edge these past two weeks as the trial has progressed. The prospect that a jury could have reached a verdict of acquittal, despite overwhelming evidence, is a reminder that our legal system still has a long way to go to prove itself worthy of calling itself a system of justice. The reality that a life could be taken in such a senseless and cruel way — a life that could be that of a son or daughter, a spouse, a parent, the life of any one of us — without any recourse is a devastating reality of our society. This is a reality that Black Americans live with every day.
Today’s verdict, I hope represents a beginning, a way forward toward overcoming the injustices that have so tenaciously endured. But it is only a beginning if we make it one. We still have a long way to go to make permanent and real systemic change.
George Floyd’s death one year ago ignited a movement and turned our collective attention to the ugly and shameful racism in our society. As we look ahead, as a law school, as law students, and as practicing lawyers, the question before us is: what responsibility do we have to ensure justice is served for our country’s most vulnerable? How can we acknowledge our role in perpetuating systemic racism and sustain the work to mobilize and make real change? The time is now for change. Law and lawyers play a crucial role in creating and sustaining change. This moment represents an opportunity for us all. We must continue the momentum of the movement to promote racial justice so we don’t need to mourn yet another unnecessary brutal loss. In my personal and professional life, I am committed to ensuring that George Floyd’s death was not in vain.
As you know, as a community, we have recommitted ourselves over the past year to reexamining how racism infects the Law School and to taking actions to begin to address endemic bias and discrimination here and in our society at large. We will continue that important work and I will provide you with another update on progress before the end of the school year.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, I want to acknowledge that this trial has stirred very potent emotions. After navigating an unprecedented year of anxiety and unrest, you may find yourselves overcome by exhaustion, stress, or pain. Please know that we are here to support you. For students seeking counseling, I want to note that the counseling and psychological services group, directed by Dr. Jeff Ng, has extended their services. Students also have access to our after-hours counselor, Madeline Maldonado, LCSW-R. For faculty and staff, the LifeWorks Employee Assistance Program provides no-cost confidential services to help Fordham employees and their family members address challenges.
We are also planning a Dialogue Day where students, faculty, and staff will be invited to share their thoughts and feelings as a community. It will be an opportunity to come together with your peers and react to the news, share your feelings, listen to one another, and offer support. Our Office of Student Affairs will conduct group listening sessions and will be available to any individual students to provide support and additional resources. In the meantime, I look forward to partnering with you on moving the needle forward as an anti-racist institution. Please do not hesitate to lean on your Fordham Law family during these challenging times.
Dean and Paul Fuller Professor of Law