Ruth J. Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, issued a statement to the university community outlining her plans for the educational institution in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. “The stark brutality of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis has further deepened the crisis in the country and reawakened a sense of fear and outrage across the world and especially among African Americans who recognize the crime as part and parcel of the reality that they endure every day,” President Simmons wrote.
President Simmons said that as soon as approval can be achieved, all students entering Prairie View A&M University will take a course on the history of race and class in the United States. “While one course will never be a panacea,” Dr. Simmons said, “it can serve to ground our students in the reality of their lives and help them better navigate how to cope with the often confusing treatment they may encounter in the future. It can also help them avoid personal behavior that is complicit in holding themselves back from the fullness of their abilities.”
The university will also institute and an Activist-in-Residence position that will bring individuals to campus who have made a difference in casting light on or solving systemic social problems. And an annual award will be established for activists who have performed important work to increase understanding in the area of criminal justice reform.
President Simmons also proposes the creation of a Center for Race and Justice on campus. The purpose of the Center will be to encourage teaching and scholarship that contributes positively to overturning systemic biases that impede the ability of minorities and other groups to be accorded their full rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Dr. Simmons is a graduate of Dillard University in New Orleans and holds a Ph.D. in Romance languages and literatures from Harvard University. Dr. Simmons has served as president of Brown University in Rhode Island and Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Earlier, she was vice provost at Princeton University in New Jersey and provost at Spelman College in Atlanta.