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Message from Peter Todd, Dean of HEC Paris

Message sent to the entire student community, professors and collaborators on June 5, 2020 

Statement on racism

Today we are gripped by yet another global pandemic. This one from a sickness that circulates around all of us constantly, too often silently, and far too often creating pain, suffering and death. It is racism. 

Over the past week we have all seen the tragedy and upheaval created by this racism emanating from the United States. It is not new. Although the US is a country that has long struggled with issues of racial discrimination, deeply rooted in their history and culture, they are neither unique nor alone. Racism is everywhere. 

Black lives matter. We must acknowledge that racism has profound effects on society and devastating effects on the lives of African Americans and people of color all around the world. It never stops and it falls to all of us to take a stand against it, with strength and conviction.

Racism, as I said earlier, is not just an American problem, it is a worldwide scourge and one that requires a global response. Determining that response falls to each individual and to each organization but our responsibility is collective. To speak up. To take a stand. 

To speak up when we see racism and discrimination. To acknowledge that we too may have biases, perhaps unconscious, that perpetuate the problem and pain of racial discrimination. To speak up against manifestations of racism, not just when they occur in the blatant and ugly manner we have seen with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and spreading from it with brutal police actions over recent days, but also when we see its more subtle and insidious forms.

But we can’t just speak up. We need to listen. We, in positions of relative power and privilege, need to listen as much, or more, than we need to speak. We need to seek to understand. But in doing so also acknowledge that we can't truly understand the pain and suffering experienced by those subject to racism, discrimination and harassment. But we can and must continue to try. 

To do that we need to talk. To speak to one another, to engage in real conversation. To share experiences and to appreciate diverse perspectives. We are privileged to live in a community at HEC Paris that is among the most diverse of any school in the world. With that privilege comes great responsibility. A responsibility to speak up when we see acts of racism and discrimination in our community and injustice in the world around us. To do that as much or more when it is subtle than when it is egregious. To not just speak up, but to listen to one another and to attempt to understand.

I applaud the efforts of students and staff who have pushed me, and by extension us as an institution, to speak, but also encouraged us to listen and we hope to hear. While we remind ourselves that universities remain at their essence places where divergence of views and opinions are core to learning, arguments are welcome, and indeed embraced. Exploration, debate and argument helps us learn and grow. We also need to remind ourselves that as we grow, as we learn to dare, we must be guided by our principles and values. 

Our principles at HEC Paris embrace, albeit imperfectly, diversity in all its forms. That leaves no room for discrimination and it leaves no room for racism. On that there can be no debate. 

Peter Todd 
Directeur Général and Dean
HEC Paris