Penn State President Eric Barron. Photo by Mira DiBattiste | Onward State
Chauvin was found guilty on all charges: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. However, Barron said a jury’s verdict alone won’t solve injustices found across the country.
“A jury found him guilty, yet this delivery of justice by our legal system does not mitigate the trauma, frustration and anger that members of our community are feeling over the death of George Floyd,” Barron wrote. “It is palpable and profound and nothing can mitigate the fact that another innocent life was taken. We grieve because George Floyd was taken from his family and his community because of the wanton and unjustifiable abuse of power. We grieve because racism, inequality and brutality in America persist.
“The fact that so many Black Americans have died as George Floyd did is a heartbreaking reality that cannot be ignored. We must not accept these acts of injustice. The long history of mistreatment of Black and other communities of color and the persistent structural issues they encounter must change.”
Barron later wrote “it is our collective responsibility” to continue efforts to fight injustice moving forward. He added that Penn State “is in a unique position” to educate future generations about racism and, in turn, fight injustices and inequities.
“As individuals and as an institution, we must face, comprehend and share the history of American racism so that we can help to create a different future,” Barron wrote. “Structural racism impacts and shapes our lives on a daily basis, whether we are willing to admit it or not. There will be some individuals who deny this assertion, but history — and the present — indicate otherwise.”
Barron concluded his letter to the community by pledging Penn State will follow its commitment to making progress on those fronts, particularly through promoting efforts to financially support minority students, implementing mandatory bias training for employees and completing revisions to the Student Code of Conduct.
Following reports of student hate speech, the university updated its Student Code of Conduct in January to include more specific language surrounding “acts of bias” and apply the code’s jurisdiction to off-campus matters that affect students. Implemented recommendations also created a separate categorical conduct violation for “discriminatory harassment.”
Penn State is expected to issue its first annual report on Office of Student Conduct outcomes this summer.
“We are making progress, but I will not rest, nor will my leadership team, in our efforts to achieve significant and tangible progress,” Barron wrote.
Barron also said it’s critical that the university’s ultimate goal of eliminating racism and bias in its systems “must never end.” He asked all Penn State community members to commit to making change possible, too.
Penn State students, employees, and community members can report racism and bias within the university through this online tip form at any time. Additional resources are compiled in this press release.