Dean’s Statement on Disaster in Nepal and Riots in Baltimore

April 29, 2015 @ 11:00 pm

Baltimore protest over Freddie Gray + Nepal disaster

We watch with disbelief the disaster in Nepal, where thousands have lost their lives, antiquities have been destroyed, and searches continue in the Himalayas for those who are known to have been trekking when the earthquake struck.

One of our own students is in Nepal—we believe in Kathmandu. Her family has been fearful about her situation with so many places left in rubble and limited means of communication back to the United States. Our student services and advising team have been on alert, seeking to reach her along with her mother, with whom I spoke today. What we learned is that there is no transport out of Nepal for at least the next ten days because of the need to use all available planes to move in rescue teams and equipment. Public health conditions and food supplies are untrustworthy.

Although we cannot share the student’s name, as you watch the effort to help the people of Nepal and their nation, please send positive energy—and prayers if you pray—that she and others might be safe and well and be able to return swiftly home.

While more than 4,000 are believed to be dead in Nepal, we are also witnessing riots in Baltimore following Freddie Gray’s tragic death from preventable spinal injuries caused during his transport in a police van after he was arrested. First there were protests and then the city erupted with looting, fires, and street violence. The anger and the frustration of the Black community and its allies has reached a boiling point.

Gray’s death was senseless and, once again, the utter disregard of a Black person’s life is horrendously undeniable. When will we ever learn? When will social justice be a way of life and not an aspiration? How can such violence happen again and again and again?

At times like these, we can only try to be selfless and grateful and angry and sad and hopeful—and then do what we can.

Jeanette C. Takamura is the Dean of Columbia University’s School of Social Work, where she also serves as a professor.

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Photo credit: (left) Freddie Gray protests in Baltimore, via Sohh; Nepal Earthquake 2015, by Krish Dulal via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).