Dear UNC Asheville Faculty and Staff Colleagues and Students,
We are about one year and one month after the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic and about a month short of one year since George Floyd’s murder. Over the course of the last year we have had to endure far too many reminders of the ways in which people are inhumane toward “other” people. As many have said repeatedly, what we have seen throughout this last year is, sadly, not a new story. These events are a manifestation and extension of a long, fraught history in this country.
The recurrent deaths of black and brown people, the escalation of violence against Asian Americans, and the rise of anti-gay, anti-transgender legislation have led to an especially overwhelming mix of sorrow and pain and rage throughout this past year. Unfortunately, it seems likely that this is a blend of emotions that we will need to continue to endure.
As these events play out nationally and internationally, we recognize that they are not merely distant and felt at arm’s length. For some, they intersect with deeply personal experiences, activate new incidences of injury, and pick at wounds that have never healed, wounds inflicted right here in the context of engaging our work at this institution.
We are thankful to the number of you who have already created safe spaces for people to gather and engage in ways where one’s identity as it relates to race, gender, sexuality, and the intersections of these identities, can be centered. We know that these gatherings can be affirming, mechanisms for processing experiences and emotions, and a chance to think about needs and next steps.
We encourage and will be facilitating more such opportunities to come together in mutual support. And we will look to find ways to hear from you, to learn about the challenges that remain for us to address here in our own community. We will say more about this before the end of the year.
For now, we turn our attention back to the national landscape. As we support those faculty and staff already organizing and making ways to be strengthened against the violence against Asian Americans, we also feel the impending verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial and know that we will need to replicate such opportunities.
A guilty verdict does not wipe away the horror of the past or the continued presence of issues. An acquittal will almost surely reopen wounds and reignite emotions. There are those who will need to process thoughts and emotions tied to the particulars and context of George Floyd’s murder. And there will be the need to support those whose hurt and anger are triggered, but reflect the impact and violence from a broader spectrum of bias.
The following opportunities are available to our campus community to process, and we will create more as needed:
Bulldog Broadcast Feelings Wall: Stop by the Bulldog Broadcast Board in Highsmith Union and share how you are feeling in a safe and anonymous way! Chalk will be provided and all COVID-19 protocols will be in play. Stop by and tell us what is on your mind.
Meltdown: Sponsored by Campus Recreation – Appointments Required
· This is a scream, punch and kick class session in 15 minute increments encouraging students to vent their frustration.
Healing Spaces: Sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Health and Counseling
· Black and African American Healing Space – April 26, 2021, 7p – Virtually connect and process with peers – In response to recent violence targeting Black people and children, this is a space for Black people to be in community with each other.
· Trans, Non-Binary, & Gender Non-Conforming – April 21, 2021, 7p – Virtually connect and process with peers – In response to the 80+ anti-trans bills that have been penned this year alone, this is a space for trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming folks to be in community with each other.
Racial Trauma Yoga: Sponsored by the Key Center, OMA, and Campus Recreation — For BIPOC Students
· Friday, April 23 at 5:30p on AC Reynolds Green
Quiet Reflection: Open to all to reflect quietly while in community. Join your peers in the Asheville Campus Entertainment Office in the Highsmith Student Union to paint, color, craft, or just “be” while processing your feelings in reflection. No appointment necessary.
Our Center for Teaching and Learning suggests the following pedagogical resources and CTL staff are available for consultations:
Students in need of individual support may contact Health and Counseling Services at 828.251.6520. Faculty and Staff in need of individual support may contact the Employee Assistance Program, with confidential short-term counseling by calling 833-515-0768.
These are trying times, but our shared values of humanity, care for one another, compassion and understanding will help us, once again, face uncertainty with resilience, hope, and steadfast determination. There are many tough conversations ahead and much healing necessary to move our campus further forward as a more just, equitable and welcoming place for everyone. We look forward to doing this work together in the days and months to come.