Following Chauvin conviction, SoCal university leaders vow to continue challenging systemic racism nationwide

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Following the conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, Southland and California university leaders vowed to continue challenging systemic racism nationwide, with diverse campuses playing a key role in the fight.

"As Bruins, we are committed to creating a world of justice and dignity for all," UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a community message. "We must challenge the devaluation of Black, Brown, Native or Asian lives. This must be an urgent obligation and new normal for every person and every institution in our country.

"UCLA will keep doing the work to meet that obligation," Block said. "As a university, we must create opportunities to promote change through our scholarship, teaching, and service. The training we provide here shapes the leaders of tomorrow. ... UCLA remains committed to doing all we can to address inequity and create a community -- and a country -- where there is no doubt that Black lives matter. I and so many others across this country saw a glimmer of reform in the outcome of the Chauvin trial."

Joseph I. Castro, chancellor of the Long Beach-based California State University system, said he was "relieved" at the verdict and hoped it brought some solace to Floyd's family.

"The horrific death of Mr. Floyd -- and the trial itself -- have been traumatic experiences for many African-Americans and other people of color within the CSU community and across the state and nation," Castro wrote in a message to the CSU community. "The trauma is rooted in generations of systemic racism in our country, which has had a profoundly negative impact on African American families."

He said the CSU system can serve as an "inflection point" that "marks a turn toward healing, reconciliation and recovery."

"Our position as the largest and most diverse public university in the nation also makes us the most consequential university at this critical moment in our country's history," Castro said. "We lead the nation in driving social mobility for our students, yet there is much more work to do. The CSU is part of an educational ecosystem in California that must eliminate, once and for all, equity gaps among our students and prepare more African-American students for admission to and graduation from the CSU and other universities."

University of California President Michael V. Drake and UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez released a joint statement, saying Chauvin "grossly and maliciously overstepped his duties as a police officer when he killed George Floyd."

"This verdict will not ameliorate the incredible pain and grief the Floyd family are experiencing, or the pain and suffering endured by so many more," they said. "It does, at least, reaffirm the principle that no one is above the law, especially not a peace officer trusted with protecting a community's safety and security. Although it cannot bring back Floyd, may today's jury decision give his family and loved ones a measure of peace, and encourage our country to re-imagine and work toward a safer and more equitable future for us all."