Community of Care: Students and faculty gather to discuss the tragedy of Tyre Nichols’ death

On Jan. 7, five Memphis police officers wrongfully assaulted Tyre Nichols after he fled the scene of a traffic stop that quickly turned hostile. He was stopped for alleged reckless driving. This tragically ended in Nichols’ death at St. Francis Hospital just three days later. 

Following his death, outcry erupted across the nation as demonstrators rallied for the arraignment of the five Memphis police officers and to put an end to police brutality. 

Students, faculty and parents of Cleveland State University gathered on Jan. 28 for the Community of Care Dialogue, which created a space for individuals to share and process their thoughts and feelings following Nichols’ death. This event was organized by Vice President of Campus Engagement, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Phillip Cockrell. 

In attendance were students from every class standing, age, and a variety of disciplines. In addition to Cockrell, was Coordinator of the Howard A. Mims African-American Cultural Center Prester Pickett, Urban Health engagement manager Todd Fennimore, Psychologist and Outreach & Groups Coordinator Dr. Bruce Menapace, Chief of Staff Patricia Franklin J.D., Cleveland State University president Dr. Laura Bloomberg, Multicultural counselor Dorothy Hilliare, Officer Toni Jones and Rune of the CSU Police Department. 

The conversation began with a simple question; “How are you doing?” asked Cockrell, with Rune laid across his feet. 

The group responded with sentiments of anger, sadness, and helplessness. One common theme amongst students was the feeling of numbness. Mothers described the unique pain of watching your child suffer. In his final moments, Nichols called out for his mother. 

Perpetual media exposure has seemingly amplified feelings of numbness and helplessness. The bodycam footage of Nichols arrest was released by the Memphis Police Department on January 27th, and has since been viewed by millions. 

This dialogue was a necessary moment to pause and reflect amidst the onslaught of media coverage and footage circulation.

Cockrell discussed the trauma linked to not only witnessing these tragedies, but viewing footage of police brutality. He explains that people of color experience acute stressors stemming from racial violence and injustice. As a result, many suffer from chronic stress and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Dr. Bruce Menapace and Dorothy Hilliare shared coping strategies, resources, and grounding techniques. Additionally, Cockrell expanded on the harmful notion that black men are taught to bury their feelings, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness.

“Nobody should go through this alone, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to” said Hilliare. 

In light of this tragic event, CSU plans to celebrate Black History Month with a series of events put on by students and faculty. Additionally, the fourth annual Project 400 event is scheduled for February 24th and 25th. 

This years Project 400 titled, Our Bodies, Our Minds, Our Communities: Physical, Emotional, and Environmental Impacts of Racism sets to elevate black voices and discuss the physical, emotional, and environmental impacts of racism. 

The counseling center is offering one on one, group, in-person, and telehealth sessions for all students. Their hours are 9-5pm on weekdays.

Impact Solutions provides support for faculty members on a 24/7 basis.

While the nation processes this event, it can feel isolating. The Community of Care Dialogue is emblematic of Cleveland State University’s commitment to their student and faculty’s wellbeing. 

Cleveland State University Counseling Center:

Regular Office hours: M-F, 9am-5pm

Urgent in-person or phone appointments: M-F, 1pm-3pm

After hours Crisis line available 24/7: 216-687-2277

To get scheduled walk in (Union building room 220, 1836 Euclid Ave. Directly above Rascal house. Take the elevator or stairs to access) or call 216-687-2277

Impact Solutions for faculty:

24/7 unlimited phone consultation with a licensed mental health professional: 800-227-6007