Community Message from President Somerson in Response to Riots at Nation's Capitol

January 7, 2021

Dear RISD Community,

A democratic system is defined by civil discourse and due process. What we witnessed yesterday at our nation’s Capitol marked a significant and unprecedented threat to our democracy. We as a community and a country must come together to make it clear that we will not tolerate violence, and will not allow the results of a free and fair election to be overturned. We must reaffirm our values, our humanity and the will of the people, particularly those who fought and still fight for their right to vote. The violence and destruction that took place yesterday goes well beyond our rights of free speech and protest, and threatens the very structures on which democracy relies. This is a moment when we must call for accountability for all those who instigated yesterday’s violence and for those who allowed it to take place. We must also acknowledge the blatant inequity of response to peaceful protest over the summer in comparison to the riotous violence of yesterday and the clear difference based on race.

The last 11 months have been harrowing. Yet, our community has come together in ways that have been truly astounding, supporting one another through a pandemic and pushing our institution to make consequential progress around anti-racism, equity and inclusion. Let us apply these same principles to our nation and ask for accountability. Let us recognize that we have collective power and influence to make change and to continue RISD’s mission that advances truth, justice, openness and the greater good. Never have these values been more important.

Rosanne Somerson