Rolling with the uncertainty, coming out stronger Rolling with the uncertainty, coming out stronger Rolling with the uncertainty, coming out stronger

The UW has responded with leadership during the COVID-19 crisis. Now we must make the same commitment to addressing systemic racism.

By Ben Franz-Knight | Photo by Quinn Russell Brown | September 2020

As an undergrad, I worked as a mechanic and managed the ASUW Bike Shop in the HUB. That experience played a significant role in my 15-year career as the executive director of the Santa Monica Pier and Pike Place Market. Leading these cherished historic destinations, I gained a deep appreciation for the value of an engaged public. I also learned how important it is for institutions to remain agile, engage in constant reflection and correct course to meet new challenges and move forward. These lessons translate amazingly well to navigating city streets on two wheels. My obsession with bikes continues to this day—as does my firm belief in the transformative power of civic engagement.

The first time I heard President Cauce say, “The University of Washington is the University for Washington,” I thought it was a clever play on words. But this phrase represents a critical and fundamental shift in the role of universities in community and leadership. The global pandemic wreaked havoc with our lives, and the economic and civic disruption that followed laid bare the deeply entrenched institutional racism and inequity in our nation. At times like this, we seek bold and inspiring leadership.

Fortunately, the UW and the Husky community leaned in, advancing rapid deployment of COVID-19 tests in UW Medicine laboratories, donating masks and supporting pop-up testing, moving courses online and removing the requirement of standardized test scores for incoming undergraduates. Your alumni association took immediate action, too, granting membership to all 2020 graduates, continuing programs like Huskies at Work and launching Stronger Together.

Now we must focus the same energy and commitment to root out inequity and address institutional racism. In my role on the UWAA board, I pledge to engage in the difficult conversations, to lead with a lens that checks my own implicit biases and advances the vision of a University for Washington.

Cycling has taught me that you only go as far as you push, and now is a time for the UW to push further and harder than it ever has before. I hope you will join me.