Message from President Gerard J. Rooney

June 1, 2020

I write today in the wake of recent events and division in Rochester and across our nation.

The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and too many others were both tragic and senseless, and we should all be outraged. I recognize the impact these injustices have had on so many, including members of our own campus community.

Our community’s response to the death of George Floyd, like the response of so many communities, began as a peaceful memorial aimed at unity and a demand for change. Unfortunately, some turned to violence and disruption, which has brought even more devastation to Rochester and Monroe County, and that violence risks taking the focus off of the very real need for meaningful change.

As an anchor institution of higher education in this community, we have a long-standing commitment to issues of social justice and a responsibility to be a part of the solution. We stand with the entire Rochester community and we remain committed to community-wide efforts to eliminate institutional and structural racism and discrimination. We will continue to work diligently to create an environment that fosters inclusive excellence focused on opportunities to strengthen our values and practices.

Most recently, the Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion has amplified and focused our commitment through the implementation of a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion plan. While our in-person work was interrupted due to the pandemic, we remain committed to continuing that work when we are able to do it in the most meaningful way – together.

As many of you know, in 2018, Fisher joined colleagues from across Rochester in the Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI), which builds upon the work of Rochester’s “Facing Race = Embracing Equity” and the Structural Racism Initiative. REJI is a community-wide effort to dismantle racism at all its levels, working closely with the Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative and the City of Rochester’s Let’s Get REAL charter, as the region tries to make a systemic impact on equity. As part of this initiative, Fisher’s REJI team is working to assess existing policies, organizational values and internal culture, and increase leadership opportunities that will create upward mobility and opportunities for people of color within our organization.

Our work, which aligns with our Strategic Plan and builds on the recommendations of the Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and REJI, has never been more important.

At Fisher, respect, open-mindedness, and integrity are of the utmost importance, and we pledge to continue to demonstrate our commitment to these values to all members of the greater Rochester community and our own campus. Finally, we remain committed to educating our community around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion and the importance of leveraging this moment toward meaningful and lasting change.

Kind regards,

Gerard J. Rooney, Ph.D.