Community Message from President Somerson in Response to Derek Chauvin Verdict

April 21, 2021

Dear RISD Community,

On April 20, the verdict of guilty on all three charges was announced against Derek Chauvin, the former police officer undergoing trial for the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020.

This has been a deeply personal trial for Americans across the nation and certainly on the RISD campus. It comes at a moment when so many BIPOC citizens and their allies are tired of rage and injustice. I want to acknowledge in particular the acute emotions felt by our Black community members. Over the past weeks as the nation followed this trial, Black Americans in particular have re-experienced the trauma of the horrific last moments of Mr. Floyd’s life, painfully broadcast again and again throughout the trial.

On the heels of the recent deaths of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo, this crime against yet another Black individual by a member of law enforcement does not stand in isolation. Despite the guilty verdict we face the reality that many Black individuals have not received the same kind of justice. Looking back at the recent verdicts of so many deaths involving law enforcement reminds us that this moment is yet another call to action. We have to get to work to hold not just the police but elected officials and community members accountable—the first step toward instigating true and just reform. Systemic issues demand systemic actions.

At RISD, we stand for equity and actively fight against racist policies, laws and behaviors. We are committed to institutional change, and that change is happening. But there is much work ahead, both within our campus community and our nation, and it will take all of us, especially those in positions of power and privilege, to work hard to rectify the wrongs that are an indelible part of our society.

The Floyd family is particularly in our thoughts as they process this moment. Community support has been key to their healing. This is not a moment for celebration as we all mourn another unnecessary death. But I encourage all of us to work toward supporting each other—to reach out and help one another in any way we can. If you need support, please do not hesitate to get in touch with any of the offices below.

Intercultural Student Engagement

Counseling and Psychological Services

Office of Institutional Discrimination
Discrimination report form

Public Safety
401 454-6666

Student Affairs

Employee Support
AllOne, Employee Assistance
Confidential counseling and referral/resources
24-hours a day at 800-451-1834


Rosanne Somerson, President