April 21, 2021

Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,

This afternoon a verdict was reached in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. I direct your attention to the joint statement, in italics below, made by the presidents of the New York Six colleges including Colgate, Hamilton, Skidmore, St. Lawrence, Union and Hobart and William Smith. This statement expresses our collective outrage that George Floyd and so many other people of color – most recently Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo – have died from the actions of police. At Hobart and William Smith, we have a deep responsibility as an institution of higher education to model a just society, to engage in dialogue, to stand firm against violence in all its forms, and to create change.

The presidents of the New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium member institutions have issued a statement following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minnesota. The statement reads:

Today, a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murder in the May 25, 2020 killing of George Floyd.

Like communities across the nation, our campuses have been roiled by Mr. Floyd’s murder and by the violence inflicted upon people of color in incidents that are far too frequent. The recent deaths of Daunte Wright in Minneapolis and Adam Toledo in Chicago remind us that much work remains to be done to end systemic racism and racialized policing.

We call upon all members of our communities to commit themselves to justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and in everything we do, everywhere we go. Our actions cannot bring back lives that have been tragically and violently cut short, and cannot ease the suffering of grieving families. But taking determined action against racism and injustice is the only way we will prevent these killings from happening in the future and begin to heal as a nation.

Each of our schools will provide opportunities for discussions about the Chauvin case in the coming days, and many resources are available to members of our campus communities who need support. Join us in this critically important work.


Brian W. Casey, Colgate University
David Wippman, Hamilton College
Joyce P. Jacobsen, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
William L. Fox, St. Lawrence University
Marc C. Conner, Skidmore College
David R. Harris, Union College

In the coming days and weeks, I encourage all of us to reach out to one another in dialogue and support. As always, Chaplain Nita Byrd and the Office of Spiritual Engagement are available to all members of our community. I am also grateful to Khuram Hussain, the Colleges’ Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and to Community Education for Transformation for their efforts in putting together a session tomorrow for educators at HWS and in the Geneva community titled ‘Teaching the Unthinkable: Engaging our Classes in the Hour of the Chauvin Trial.’


Joyce P. Jacobsen