Message from the Dean

May 22, 2023 2:00 PM

Dean Boyce Williams

 Post Pandemic Justice

As we hopefully watch the world open back up, it would be a gross oversight not to address and acknowledge the realities of what we have all been through in the past 24 plus months. We have all been affected either professionally, personally, socially, mentally, politically, and/or financially. The reality is that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic extends far, far beyond the death toll. 

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic was a health crisis of astronomical proportion. It exposed the American healthcare system – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unjust. We saw the emergence of heroes via the amazing doctors, nurses and first responders, and the confirmation of health disparities in many communities. These disparities were especially glaring in communities of color and rural locations. The FSU family, being in close proximity to many rural communities, witnessed first-hand the limits of rural healthcare systems, both in the availability and scope of care. It has forced us to look at how we can be a better community partner and advocate, ushering in policies, procedures, and opportunities that directly address area health care challenges. I send my thanks and gratitude to the FSU administration that implemented swift measures that kept our students, faculty, and staff as safe as possible.

The pandemic effected our everyday lives to the point that we were all at home viewing the video footage of the George Floyd incident on rotation. There was nothing to take our attention away from it – no new breaking news, no days filled with errands, no work or school schedules, no outside activities. It was there, in our faces, demanding to be seen and dealt with, serving as a beacon for justice. The awful truth of social injustice for people of color and the disenfranchised boiled up to a level not seen since the 60’s civil rights movement. It fostered family discussions, political debates, and demands for procedural change. I am encouraged by the open dialogue surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus, and I look forward to the implementation of campus-wide DEI initiatives coupled with an environment of cultural acceptance and understanding.  

Whether we like it or not, the pandemic has forced many to choose a political side.  As a citizen of this democracy, we should all be afforded the opportunity to support and vote for whomever we choose, without restriction or consequence. It is paramount to protect the right of citizens to vote and to be heard. We at FSU must pay close attention to the political climate because college campuses have long been the environment for the blossoming of political movements. Its where many young people begin to mold their political beliefs, and, in some instances, showcase their activism. We must be vigilant in providing a nurturing, neutral environment for political expression that seeks to promote collegial and respectful dialogue.    

However, I firmly believe that the most significant impact of the pandemic was the revelation and realization of what is really important to us. We were all “sentenced” to our homes, whatever that situation entailed – work from home, home schooling, limited access to outside influences. It was a time for discovery and introspection. We have learned who and what we can/cannot live without. Along with all this newfound knowledge of self, comes the reality that we must contribute directly to the lifestyle and world in which we want to live. As an institution of higher education, FSU seeks to create environments where each student and faculty or staff member, can live a life reflective of what is of utmost importance to them.

It is now our mission to address these injustices, and, in the words of John Lewis, find some “good trouble” to get into. We have seen firsthand what happens when you ignore injustice; it doesn’t go away – it finds a way to get noticed, and just like a virus, the strands are stronger than the original. “Lewis’ing“ can take many forms – participating in open dialogue, contributing to organizations that address disparities, volunteering to community groups and initiatives, lending your expertise to activity groups. Find your method, your strategy, your way of “Lewis’ing”, and engage!  

Justice will come when we as a community, a county, and a people resolve to never forget the lessons COVID-19 has and will continue to teach us;  we are all lucky or blessed (depending on your position) to be alive, and we owe it to the world to live in joy and happiness, creating a culture where our fellow man has the opportunity to do so as well. It is my hope that we never see anything of this magnitude again in our lifetime, but in the event that something emerges, I hope we approach it armed with the lessons we have learned over these last two years. But above all … BE KIND.

Boyce C. Williams, Ph.D.