In its June 10 meeting, the Board of Visitors of the University of Mary Washington unanimously passed a resolution declaring solidarity with the family of George Floyd and the scores of protesters who are making their voices heard. “We stand with the thousands in our country and around the world, including members of the Mary Washington community, who have engaged in peaceful protests to affirm that Black Lives Matter, and to call for an end to the social injustice and systemic racism that permeate the fabric of our country,” the resolution stated.
In addition to the Board action, President Troy D. Paino announced that he and his wife Kelly Paino will seed a new scholarship in the memory of George Floyd. The scholarship will promote the development of leadership skills for students committed to addressing societal issues disproportionately affecting black and underrepresented communities. Their initial gift of $5,000 will serve as a challenge to members of the University community to financially assist Mary Washington students who are emerging leaders dedicated to driving action around social issues. The Painos’ challenge was quickly matched by Board member Allida Black and her wife Judy Beck, who will issue their own $5,000 challenge for the fund. The scholarships goal is $100,000.
The resolution was the first priority on the agenda during the Board’s regular meeting. Members also recommitted themselves to the University’s Statement of Values and adherence to policies and practices that promote equity, fairness, access and an inclusive environment of mutual respect for all members of the Mary Washington community. Further, they stated their dedication to “rooting out any practice within our community that stems from implicit bias, or systemic racism.”
The resolution, submitted by Board member Rhonda VanLowe, comes on the heels of a number of steps the University has taken over the last several years to ensure that UMW is fully welcoming and inclusive. Following the adoption in 2017 of the strategic vision drafted by President Paino, UMW organically developed a community values statement known as ASPIRE. The University established the new role of Vice President for Equity and Access and focused on hiring more diverse employees, as well as created additional campus-wide opportunities for dialogue around, awareness of, and training about racism, implicit bias and microaggressions.
The James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) continues to serve as a resource for programming and center of support for all students. Additionally, the JFMC offers opportunities for experiential learning such as a social justice leadership summit and the fall 2018 and 2019 social justice trips that followed the path of the original Freedom Rides. In 2020, the University launched a year-long celebration marking the 100th anniversary of James Farmer’s birth and helping preserve the legacy of the civil rights icon and former Mary Washington professor.