UNH leadership reacts to the Derek Chauvin verdict


Anna Kate Munsey

On Tuesday, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts in regards to the killing of George Floyd – unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.  

Floyd’s murder in May of 2020 caused nationwide protests about police brutality and systemic racism, and spurred calls for police reform. He died, while handcuffed, after Chauvin held his knee to his neck for over nine minutes. 

University of New Hampshire (UNH) President James W. Dean Jr., Provost Wayne Jones, Chief Diversity Officer Nadine Petty and Senior Vice Provost for Student Life Kenneth Holmes sent out a statement Wednesday morning on the verdict.  

“Over the past few weeks, many have been navigating anxiety and uncertainty as they actively engaged in following the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was charged with several counts including second-degree murder in the death of George Floyd. Our Black community members have been disproportionately impacted. Yesterday, a verdict of guilty on all counts was released,” they wrote. 

The email outlined several discussions and support services available in light of this decision. On Thursday, a facilitated processing session open to all staff, faculty and graduate students will be offered at noon. Also on Thursday, UNH’s Civil Discourse Lab will facilitate their final campus dialogue relating to the Racial Equity Challenge. During Unity Week – May 4 to 8, the university will offer many opportunities for education and dialogue. They also outlined services available for those experiencing trauma during this time, including Psychological and Counseling Services, the Beauregard CenterHealth and Wellness and the Office of Community Equity and Diversity. Lastly, Beauregard Center Director Caché Owens-Velásquez has curated a document for UNH faculty and staff regarding how to support students in discussing police violence and racism.  

“This is a time for our students, our faculty, and our staff to come together in support of one another. It is important that we provide ourselves and each other with space to digest the verdict and to process our individual reactions. We hold strongly to our values of inclusivity, diversity and mutual respect. Please take care of yourself and others,” they wrote. 

Following three weeks of testimony, the jury deliberated for just over one day before returning the three guilty verdicts. Chauvin’s sentencing will take place in about eight weeks. He is currently being held in a single cell in Oak Park Heights, the only maximum-security prison in Minnesota. He faces up to 40 years in prison for unintentional second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for manslaughter. Based on sentencing guidelines, it is most likely he will receive around 12 ½ years, although the prosecution asked for more. 

Shortly after the verdict was read, politicians and famous figures made statements online. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu put out the following statements on Twitter.  

“George Floyd should be alive today, and while he will sadly never be able to return to his friends and family, we can appreciate that justice through our legal system has been delivered… Based on the overwhelming evidence, I supported charges being brought against Derek Chauvin from the beginning and I am glad justice has prevailed… I join the people of NH in praying for George Floyd and his family and hope we can heal as a nation,” he wrote. 

Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press.