The world feels like it is on fire. Between a pandemic ravaging our economy and the boiling-over fury of centuries of systemic racial injustice that have devastated our communities of color, sources of hope and inspiration can be hard to find.

As we look at the hard work that lies ahead, we are grateful for the higher education institutions in the Greater Washington region and motivated by the bravery and the action exhibited by their leaders.

In the Greater Washington Partnership’s footprint from Baltimore to Richmond, institutions of higher education are some of the largest employers. They enroll over half a million students. They drive pivotal research and ask hard questions of society as a matter of course.

In our most challenging times, at their best, universities serve as moral compasses and voices of change.

In the past three months, our region’s higher education chancellors and presidents have been given challenge after challenge, and throughout it all, they continue to lead with decisiveness and bravery. Demonstrating an ability to adapt and change course, our region’s presidents pivoted to all online education in a matter of weeks, with a steely-eyed focus on mission and equity that for many is baked in their DNA.

They paid for internet service and bought computers where needed. They found quick, creative, and safe ways to bring students home from abroad and they have continued to house and provide safe havens for international students who have been locked out of their home countries due to travel bans.

In the coming months and thanks to the unrelenting nature of the academic calendar, our Capital CoLAB universities and others will serve as the first big test cases for re-opening at scale. We will all learn about preparation, execution, and the risks associated with reopening by watching our region’s higher education sector. See our complete (and updated) list of the region’s college and university reopening plans.

In light of the above, it is no surprise that in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, as the country protests against the systemic racial inequality that leaves our neighbors of color at risk for engaging in activities that others take for granted — running, playing, walking, birding, sleeping, breathing — higher education presidents in the Capital Region are once again leading.

As the protests began last week, our region’s university presidents were among the first to identify the systemic patterns of injustice that have led us to this moment, and to begin to chart the path forward. These messages are linked below — in their entirety, they represent what might be possible when this many higher education leaders work together to build unity and solutions in the Greater Washington region.

As we struggle to become the society we want to be and to ensure our region is the best place to work, live, and build a business, we are grateful to have such powerhouses helping lead the way. To our higher education leaders showing us how to navigate the future: Thank you for your vision, thank you for your commitment to equitable growth in this region, and thank you for modeling the way forward.

Capital CoLAB Partner Statements on Racism and Injustice

American University —

(5/31) Sylvia Burwell’s message on Racism and the Pain in our Communities

Bowie State University —

(5/29) Dr. Aminta Breaux signed on to Perman and USM’s statement

Frostburg State University —

(5/29) Signed on to Perman and USM’s statement

(5/29) FSU Leadership joins with USM in condemning racism, bigotry and the killing of George Floyd

Georgetown University —

(5/31) Message from President DeGioia on Confronting Racism

George Mason University —

(6/1) Joint message from Anne Holton and Greg Washington

George Washington University —

(5/31) Dr. LeBlanc speaks to the GW community about recent racist incidents in the U.S. involving black Americans

Howard University —

(5/30) Office of the President: Addressing These Challenging Times

Johns Hopkins University —

(5/31) Johns Hopkins shares a message of solidarity against racism

Towson University —

(6/3) President Schatzel and Towson University leaders share a message with campus;

University of Maryland, College Park —

(5/29) Signed on to Perman and USM’s statement

(6/1) University of Maryland President-designate Darryll J. Pines sent the following email to the campus community this afternoon

(6/1) Student leaders and administration officials sent the following email to the campus community last night.

(6/1) UMD Launches Week of Solidarity and Reflection

University of Maryland, Baltimore County —

(5/29) Signed on to Perman and USM’s statement

(6/1) UMBC shares USM Statement on Injustice through UMBC Community News

(6/2) UMBC tweeted: “UMBC is and always will be a community that rejects racism, bigotry, and inequity in all its forms. We know that this is a traumatic time. All Black-identified students are invited to attend the Community Care Space hosted by UMBC Campus Life’s Mosaic, Interfaith, & Pride Centers on 6/3 at 3 p.m. — The Black Faculty and Staff Association is also sponsoring a Community Care space on 6/8 at 4 p.m. — Please also share in the comments events and resources that you think would be helpful for our community.”

University of Maryland, Eastern Shore —

(5/29) Signed on to Perman and USM’s statement

(5/31) Dr. Heidi Anderson tweeted: “There are certain types of events that are so devastating that our only response is to feel overwhelmed. While such feelings have their place in helping us cope, in the face of injustice and inhumanity, we have a moral imperative to speak, to raise our voices, & to seek justice.” (Part 1 of 11)

University of Maryland Global Campus —

(5/29) Signed on to Perman and USM’s statement

(6/2) A Message from UMGC President Javier Miyares on Equality and Justice.

University of Richmond —

(5/30) University Statement on Recent Acts of Racist Violence

University System of Maryland —

(5/29) Statement by USM Leadership on Structural Racism and the Killing of George Floyd

Signed by:

Jay A. Perman, Chancellor, University System of Maryland
Aminta Breaux, President, Bowie State University
Anthony Jenkins, President, Coppin State University
Ronald Nowaczyk, President, Frostburg State University
Charles Wight, President, Salisbury University
Kim Schatzel, President, Towson University
Kurt Schmoke, President, University of Baltimore
Bruce E. Jarrell, Interim President, University of Maryland, Baltimore
Freeman A. Hrabowski III, President, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Peter Goodwin, President, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Wallace D. Loh, President University of Maryland, College Park
Heidi Anderson, President, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Javier Miyares, President, University of Maryland Global Campus
Stewart Edelstein, Executive Director, Universities at Shady Grove
Mark Halsey, Executive Director, University System of Maryland at Hagerstown
Ben Latigo, Interim Executive Director, University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland

University of Virginia —

(6/3) The following message was delivered on June 3 from University of Virginia President Jim Ryan to the University community.

Virginia Commonwealth University —

(5/31) President Michael Rao’s statement regarding Richmond protests and VCU’s shared community

Virginia Tech —

(5/31) A statement from President Tim Sands and Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke