Helping students and other members of the SUNY Old Westbury community better understand, cope, learn and grow from the outcome of the George Floyd murder trial served as the centerpiece of what is now an award-winning program held by the College in Spring 2021.
"Social Justice & Action," a series of workshops, conversations and presentations timed to the announcement of the verdict in the trial of former Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin, earned the College the Dr. Teresa D. Drummond Memorial Award, presented by the members of ACUI Region VII. Competition for the honor included major research institutions, comprehensive and liberal arts colleges, technical colleges and more, as ACUI’s members includes public and private institutions of all enrollment size.
"As a Minority Serving Institution, many of our students, staff, faculty, alumni, and other campus community members have felt the impacts of racial injustice," said College President Tim Sams. "Following the heated protests of 2020, this April 2021 trial left many anxious about whether justice would be served. ‘Social Justice & Action’ was created as a space for students, especially, to unpack the trial and verdict in a safe and educational way as they unfolded."
With the leadership of the College’s the Center of Student Leadership and Involvement, a committee of staff and students developed a series of programs to help students understand the impacts of the trial and verdict, to create a space to promote healing after the tumult of the prior year, and to continue moving forward through actionable steps for both themselves and their communities.
The focus of the effort dovetailed with the eligibility requirements for the Drummond Memorial Award. Named for the nationally recognized scholar on public service, the award is presented for the program that best emphasizes the promotion of cross-cultural communication and acceptance, in addition to advocating for the inclusion of everyone in campus communities. Prior winners of the award include Rutgers University – New Brunswick and University at Buffalo.
Prepared in advance and launched just days after the announcement of the guilty verdict, "Social Justice & Action" occurred between April 22, 2021 and May 7, 2021 and brought together participants and attendees from the student body, campus law enforcement, faculty and staff, the alumni family, and the local community. Among the offerings were "Law, Policy & Practices," "Enacting Democracy," and "Healing Toolkit." The program also included a vigil to remember and honor Black lives lost to civilian or police violence over the prior year.
ACUI is the professional home to thousands of campus community builders working within college unions and the student activities field. Region VII comprises professionals working in colleges and universities in Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Quebec.