June 1, 2020
Dear UT Community,
This isn’t the first letter I’d planned to write as interim President of The University of Texas at Austin. I had a series of welcome messages set to go out today. But they didn’t anticipate or acknowledge the events of the past few days and the pain those events have caused for so many — so I had to start over.
Today’s transition comes during a turbulent and difficult time. We are experiencing widespread outrage, anger, sadness and reflection here in Austin, throughout Texas and across our country. The senseless killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests have gripped the nation. As I watch these events unfold, I feel for those who are in pain and am acutely aware that we must continue our struggle for meaningful and enduring change to overcome acts of racism and violence that corrode our community.
These challenges come as we are already responding to the COVID-19 crisis, which has become so much more than a life-threatening disease. It has paused or disrupted many of the core elements of our daily lives, forcing students to adjust to learning remotely and a different market for internships and jobs; requiring faculty and staff members to work in new, less comfortable ways; threatening many individuals’ ability to keep their jobs and earn a living; and impacting our health care and education systems.
As we navigate these difficult times, I am reminded of just how critical The University of Texas at Austin is for our community, state, nation and the entire world.
UT has always been a special place to me, as a student, faculty member and dean of the McCombs School of Business. Now more than ever, I see that the creation and dissemination of knowledge are the most effective antidotes for injustice, inequality and intolerance, and for the advancement and improvement of our society. And that’s what we do at UT.
We say, “What starts here changes the world.” Those starts and changes don’t just happen. They are the result of actions — large and small, as individuals and in teams — by our students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Without question, 2020 has not been the year any of us wanted it to be. We have seen political dysfunction, a global pandemic, economic distress, racial tension — and it is only June 1. In facing these struggles and uncertainty, we need people who can think creatively, develop workable solutions and solve difficult problems. The University of Texas has always had a mandate to be a “university of the first class.” Part of that mandate means that this university and the people of this community will take an active role in addressing the critical problems our society is facing.
As Longhorns, when we are tested, we don’t shy away. When we are challenged, we don’t fade into the background and shrink from our responsibility. We come together and draw upon the diverse range of talent, energy and passion that we have on the Forty Acres, to take on the most important and difficult issues of our time. I look forward to working with you to do that in the days and months ahead.