Q&A with CMU’s President Davies about local protests

After the murder of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, two peaceful protests took place in Mt. Pleasant on Sunday, May 31 and Monday, June 1. Monday evening’s protest, which began at Central Michigan University’s Bovee Center, was attended by CMU’s President Robert Davies.

After the protest, Davies talked with Epicenter Mt. Pleasant about his experience at the protest, how academic institutions can be part of the solution moving forward, and more.

Why did you feel it was important for you to at the protest on Monday evening - both personally and professionally?
These peaceful protests and marches were arranged by a group of CMU students who are passionately committed to making a positive difference in our community, and I wanted to show my support. The university stands with our students in this call for an end to injustice.

Central Michigan University President Robert DaviesWhile the news has been full of stories of anger and violence, the events on our campus were focused, well-organized and peaceful. Our students were frustrated, yet they chose to raise their voices and take action constructively. I am incredibly proud.

We talk frequently about diversity and inclusion at CMU — these ideals are part of our core values, and they play a vital role in our educational mission. They are powerful tools — they allow us to view problems through the lens of many experiences, with the benefit of many perspectives. We live in an increasingly global society, and we are faced with increasingly complex challenges that require complex solutions. Our world needs culturally competent problem-solvers who can work together in diverse teams to pave a path forward for us all. We need leaders.

Did you attend Sunday's protest as well?
I was not able to attend the march due to a previous commitment, but I stopped by and met with students at the corner of Mission and Bluegrass Road to thank them and show my support.

Thinking through Monday evening's protest in Mt. Pleasant, what stood out the most to you? Or what impacted you the most?
Without a doubt, I was most impressed by the leadership of our students. These students organized on social media, reached out to law enforcement to discuss their plans, coordinated their efforts and held a powerful, meaningful protest and march. People wore masks. They listened respectfully to one another. They supported and thanked one another.

Real change, powerful change, is possible only when guided by compassionate, dedicated leaders, and we saw that in action at CMU this week. While there is hard work yet ahead for our community and our nation, I have no doubt that our future is in capable hands.

How do you feel academic institutions can be part of the solution moving forward, and why is it important that they are part of the solution?
Education is the antidote to ignorance, and our primary mission is education. The exchange of information and ideas is the foundation for building bridges of understanding, and that exchange happens both in and outside of the classroom at CMU.

I believe that universities can provide a playbook for our nation on how to come together to work for positive change. We bring together people from every walk of life, every background and experience, and we engage in discussion and debate about all kinds of ideas and issues. We are an incubator for innovation in all its forms, including social, political and civic innovation.

Is there anything you would like to add?
We often remind our students, faculty and staff that we all play a role in creating the environment we wish to live, learn and work in every day, and that is true for every person in every community. Every citizen has a responsibility for shaping the world in positive ways. We can all do more to improve life for ourselves and others.