Response to the Loss of George Floyd from the Vice Provost for Educational Equity

Dr. Whitehurst, Vice Provost for Educational Equity, addresses the loss of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbrey in Georgia as victims of unconscionable acts of violence.

To the Penn State Community,

As most of the nation grieves the loss of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia as victims of unconscionable acts of violence, I’m reminded that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once made the observation that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” 

The abrupt and violent end of multiple black lives recently is a terrorizing blight on America, on humanity, and we must find the means to reinforce our fundamental commitments to justice, inclusion, and equity, and to put an end to systemic racism. I am anxious for our society to see real change.

As the Vice Provost for Educational Equity at Penn State, I am disheartened and outraged at the racist comments and abhorrent social media posts that are being displayed by individuals reported to be students of Penn State. These comments are vile and meant to incite anger, sow hatred, and cut deeply into our community. University leaders are actively reaching out to identify and speak with these individuals, although I believe the true irony is that their comments are serving to unify our community and galvanize our resolve to stop racism.

Penn State leaders take seriously the concerns of our community, and we will continue to speak out against hatred and violence, as we also continue our commitment to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone.

In the midst of this agonizing moment in history, I am also appreciative for the students who are challenging the viewpoints of those who are ignorant, uninformed, or racist. I find hope in the large numbers of people, from all walks of life, who have taken part in peaceful demonstrations and who are letting their voices be heard. These are the foundational elements needed to move ahead with purpose and effect in our country.

Encouraging people to think about and urgently push for change, as well as collectively move to address systemic problems we face as a society is within our ability as Penn Staters. Silence in this matter is not an option. As a member of our University community, I urge you to be engaged. To peacefully speak out against discrimination, prejudice, bias, and racism at every turn. To continue to make your voices be heard.

As a university leader, I encourage you to participate vigorously in civil discourse on this topic. To educate yourselves to become a force for positive change in awareness and policy. The University has an important role, and we are considering how best to engage our faculty, students, and staff to make a difference. 

For those among us who are fearful, hurting, insulted, heart-broken, or weary, please know that there are resources and people here at Penn State to assist you.

For those who wish to learn more about the issues:

And for students and others who believe they have been a victim of discrimination or bias, contact the following offices to report the issue:

Additionally, anyone who wishes to file an anonymous report may call the 24-hour Penn State Hotline at 800-560-1637 or report online at

We will continue to stand as a community, together, focused on educating people, pushing for inclusion, and embracing needed change.


Marcus A. Whitehurst, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Educational Equity