Chair’s Message on Systemic Racism

Jun 06, 2020

Dear Department Colleagues,

The horrific killing of George Floyd and the demonstrations that have followed have once again laid bare the wounds of inequality and racism that this country, and much of the world, are hurting from. As adults, we have the responsibility to formulate our own response to all of this and to stand up against racism. I cannot claim to have enough lived experience to provide you with answers on how to do that. All I know is that we all have to rely on our own inner moral compass, to be compassionate and kind, and to support those who struggle because they are marginalized. It is normal and healthy to feel anguish and pain, and to want to do something. With this in mind, I encourage you to take whatever action you think will make this world better for all of us.

Madison, our community and home, like the rest of the US, is itself struggling to find the right response. I hope that the community spirit that makes Madison a great place to live for some of us will lead us to a place of equality where all of Madison’s people can live healthy and happy lives. Our department should be a model in this transformation, and we have a lot of work to do to get there. In this spirit, we are holding a department town hall on Wedneday, June 10th. I encourage of all us to take this opportunity to achieve meaningful change.

At the end of the day, our department needs to be a place where we can come together and share ideas and insight, where we support each other so that we can do what we all love to do: science, discovery, the generation and transfer of knowledge. That requires our minds to be healthy and free, it requires us to deal with the world around us so that we can create the free energy and space for thought. 

Before closing, I would like to acknowledge that Department of Astronomy grad students have been leading the way on this in their advocacy and action. You can read statements from many of our graduate students about their commitment and concerns in the linked document.

Sebastian Heinz, Department Chair

UW-Madison Astronomy Home