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President Barron Releases Statement On ‘Tragic Death’ Of George Floyd

Penn State President Eric Barron released a statement Saturday morning condemning the “tragic circumstances” surrounding George Floyd’s death and encouraging community members to speak out against discrimination.

“The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, following other recent unspeakable tragedies, makes clear yet again that systemic discrimination and unjust racial disparities continue to plague our country,” Barron wrote. “It is past time for change.”

Barron added Penn State has an obligation to fight “ignorance and intolerance,” demonstrate inclusivity, and embrace diversity as an institution of higher education.

He also encouraged community members to stand up against prejudice and hold themselves to a higher standard.

“In the face of hatred and bias, we must speak out,” Barron wrote. “We must not accept apathy, indifference or silence, otherwise we allow hatred, prejudice and intolerance to grow.”

Barron stated Penn State has a commitment to “disrupting hate, bias and racism where and whenever” it encounters it and works to create the most diverse and inclusive community it can.

“We support our community as you express your sadness and anger through peaceful protest, and we know it is even more challenging to support and lift each other up during this global pandemic, with the added difficulty of social distancing,” Barron wrote. “However, please know that our entire University community grieves with you, supports you and joins with you as we strive for positive change.”

Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed while in police custody on May 25 in Minneapolis. His death sparked protests, rallies, and riots throughout the nation.

Friday afternoon, Penn State’s student government leaders released a similar statement condemning Floyd’s death and encouraging community members to speak out against prejudice and fight for social justice. Additionally, Penn State’s University Park Undergraduate Association formed a roundtable Wednesday to address racial justice.

State College community members will host a “Justice For George Floyd” protest at noon on Sunday, May 31 at the Allen Street Gates.

You can read Barron’s full letter to the Penn State community below.

To the Penn State community,

The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, following other recent unspeakable tragedies, makes clear yet again that systemic discrimination and unjust racial disparities continue to plague our country. It is past time for change.

We cannot remain silent in the face of this heart-breaking reality. As an institution of higher education, we have an obligation to fight ignorance and intolerance, model inclusivity and embrace the power that diversity represents. 

In the face of hatred and bias, we must speak out. We must not accept apathy, indifference or silence, otherwise we allow hatred, prejudice and intolerance to grow. 

Our message today is, foremost, one of profound compassion for all who live in fear that the color of their skin, gender identity, ethnicity or religion makes them a target of hate. Our hearts ache as we can only imagine the trauma, pain and frustration that many are feeling at this time. 

This message also reaffirms Penn State’s commitment to disrupting hate, bias and racism whenever and wherever we encounter it, and to creating the most inclusive and diverse community that we possibly can – one that is free of discrimination; one that embraces differences; and one that respects all individuals. 

We support our community as you express your sadness and anger through peaceful protest, and we know it is even more challenging to support and lift each other up during this global pandemic, with the added difficulty of social distancing. However, please know that our entire University community grieves with you, supports you and joins with you as we strive for positive change. 

Eric J. Barron

President, Penn State

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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