A Juneteenth Message from President Benson

Members of the UT Dallas Community,

Today we mark an important day in Texas history. On June 19, 1865, Army General Gordon Granger officially announced to Texans that slavery had been abolished — two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. To mark this important event, Juneteenth was established as a day of celebration.

This year, however, Juneteenth has taken on a more somber tone. The country and our campus continue to grapple with the death of George Floyd and the many other black men and women killed in recent years, including Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks.

It is clear that too many people in our country — particularly those of color — have been denied their rights and have been marginalized far too often. Racism exists and does tremendous harm. We live in a moment that requires us to recognize these inequities and to take action.

Our most pressing question is how we — collectively and individually — can do better.

I am proud of our multicultural student body at The University of Texas at Dallas. I know that we expend great effort to make every student feel welcome. However, we must challenge ourselves to do more to understand the impact of racism — not only on our students (especially black students), but also on our staff and faculty.

To that end, I am establishing a task force charged with digging deep into issues of inclusion and inequity on our campus. This task force, representative of the broader campus community, will benefit from many viewpoints. The team will be led by Dr. George Fair, vice president for diversity and community engagement, and co-chaired by Rafael Martín, vice president and chief of staff. I expect this group to do a lot of listening and to develop actionable recommendations to manifest our institution’s values of community, diversity and tolerance, and to improve inclusion, access and equity for all.

The message of Juneteenth is to celebrate an important moment in Texas and African American history. At UT Dallas, we can best mark today as our opportunity to create real change on our campus and beyond. The discussion around race has a much different foundation of support than ever before, which bodes well for a sea change in culture. As Comets, we must do our part to lead this change. It’s who we are!

Richard C. Benson signature
Richard C. Benson
Eugene McDermott Distinguished University Chair of Leadership

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].