Classroom Responses to the Chauvin Trial

Dear colleagues,

As the legal system’s mechanisms for responding to the killing of George Floyd come to an initial conclusion with a verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, we’ve heard from instructors looking for guidance in how they can support their students following the verdict announcement. This email is meant to provide some options for how you might approach that moment. 

Following the verdict, it’s likely that many members of the campus community will be experiencing heightened levels of distraction and strong emotional responses, a burden that will disproportionately impact Black students, faculty, and staff. In classrooms, students experiencing that cognitive and affective tax will find it more difficult than usual to learn. 

While there is no singular way to respond to major social and political events in the classroom, there are a few steps that instructors can take to create environments that are more conducive to student learning and belonging amidst crisis, including:

  • Acknowledging that high-profile conversations about the killing of George Floyd, racism, and police brutality might be impacting students and interfering with learning 

  • Expressing care and concern for students

  • Making student support resources visible to students 

  • If you’re comfortable doing so, letting students know that you are available to speak with them if they would like to check in 

  • Signaling your willingness to work with students and communicating transparently about what kinds of flexibility you can offer (e.g. negotiating assignment deadlines, shifting expectations for class participation, etc.) 

If you’d like to explore your options in greater depth, two CTE Resources --  Teaching After an Election and Responding to Racist Incidents -- provide an overview of what is pedagogically at stake in moments like these and detail different approaches instructors can take in response. The University of Minnesota has also created a resource on supporting students through the Chauvin trial, including sample language for communicating with students. 

The CTE is also happy to think with instructors who are deciding how they would like to respond; email to schedule a consultation. 


Stacy Grooters, PhD                                                                                Executive Director

Center for Teaching Excellence
140 Commonwealth Ave
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

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