As I wrote about George Floyd’s death last month, I asked that we focus on action, not just reiterating our decades of sadness. Indeed, the long-term shifts necessary to achieve true equality involve complex and substantive action, enlisting millions of citizens in a sustained effort to re-weave the fabric of our politics and culture. It is no small undertaking, yet absolutely necessary.
But first, here’s a thought: Perhaps our first actions can be small steps that are meaningful to each one of us. Demonstrations and rallies are important. New laws and legislation matter. But at the core is civility and respect, exhibited by individual responsibility and action.
The first steps I am thinking of are voting and being counted. Let’s take them.
The truth is voting may seem simple in theory until you realize how complex it is in practice. Who can vote? Women? Blacks? People in this neighborhood or that one? This centuries-long fight for equality does not stop with the right to vote being granted, as seen in decades of political gerrymandering, influence over voter registration policies, and an imperfect criminal justice system. The battle at the ballot box is often as much about limits on representation as it is about unlocking the great possibilities of a future enjoyed by all. It takes many forms. Do the votes all count? How is a hanging chad classified? (For the younger audience, see the issues in Florida in 2000.) What is proof of identity? It is complex indeed, but nevertheless reliant on citizens exercising their right to vote. One thing is clear: We must all do it!
The census is also vital, yet sadly easier to ignore. Many people do not know how much the census matters. While it affects how many representatives a state has in the House, that is far from the whole story. There is an old saying that all politics are local, as this recent message from a local group reminded me:
“The results of the 2020 Census will inform decisions about allocating hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding to communities across the country—for hospitals, fire departments, school lunch programs, and other critical programs and services.”
The census intends to count every person in the US whether they are a citizen or not. Of course, to participate is not an easy decision for some, including immigrant and undocumented residents. The opportunity to be counted should not be taken lightly nor for granted. So, if you have not already replied to the census, please do. It takes only minutes to do. It is the first step in being fairly counted and represented—a small but important contribution to bending the arc of history toward justice.
I encourage you to consider what additional first steps you can take on your own personal path to supporting equality. But let us all take these important first steps: Let’s commit to being good citizens. Let’s vote. Let’s be counted in the census so resources can be fairly shared.
These actions will move the needle. They will not by themselves resolve bias and hatred, nor eliminate white privilege or narrow the wealth gap in our country. But those essential goals require these first steps. They are actions within our immediate power that can open the door to broader initiatives that we must then undertake together to ensure true equality becomes not just the law of the land but ingrained in our culture.
Dean’s Fund / Class of 2020 Fundraising Update
On a much lighter note, I am heartened by your enthusiastic response to my appeal last month to honor the great Class of 2020 with a gift to the Dean’s Fund. To date, 121 donors have given a total of $25,470. Many were gifts of $20.20 and it was particularly exciting to see some gifts of $2,020 and more. As I stated last month, we will be utilizing the Dean’s Fund to provide emergency relief to current and future students whose financial need has been brought on or amplified by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 300 students have applied for this assistance. If you would like to make a donation to the Dean’s Fund or seek access to this emergency relief funding, please visit my new Dean’s Page on our website for details.
Preparing to Re-Open This Fall
The entire UConn community has been hard at work preparing to welcome students back to campus this Fall. Under the unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, this has been an extraordinarily complex task for faculty, staff and administrators throughout the University and right here in the School of Business. Naturally, students and their parents have been anxiously seeking details as they contemplate their return to school. Our student advisory team has been engaged every day, all summer long, helping students prepare for their classes and life on and off campus under carefully prepared health and safety guidelines. In many of these conversations, we have addressed a number of frequently asked questions, and I recently recorded this short video to answer some of them. I invite you to take a look!
I hope you have enjoyed your summer in good health, and I look forward to welcoming our students back to the School of Business in a few short weeks.
John A. Elliott
Dean and Auran J. Fox Chair in Business