President Barron calls for tragedies to stop following Philadelphia shooting

Dear Penn State Community,

We are witness again to another heartrending account of a Black man suffering from mental illness whose life was cut short as a result of a police-involved shooting. The eyes of the nation are now on Philadelphia where the death of 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr., who according to his family was in mental crisis, has resulted in anger, civil unrest and calls for accountability. Philadelphia, like many places in America, is in turmoil and its residents are hurting. 

Our hearts go out to Mr. Wallace’s family and friends during this difficult time, and to all those who are impacted by this violent event. This is a sad and painful moment for our state affected by a tragedy that is inflicting emotional anguish and fear on our communities of color, and also on those who struggle with mental illness. 

My heart is heavy as I think about the traumatic effect that the loss of another Black life has on our entire community, especially our students, faculty and staff of color. Regardless of where it happens, we recognize that these recurring deaths are deeply unsettling and provoke a wide range of understandable emotions from grief to anger, to deep vulnerability. We join with those seeking transparency and answers; we denounce the subsequent violence that has ensued in the city of Philadelphia; we call for an end to these tragic events; and we mourn with those whose hearts are breaking.

We remain committed to our ongoing work to upend systemic racism and create a culture defined by equity and justice. As an institution of higher education, Penn State plays a significant role in the drive for real and lasting change to the structures that have created vast inequities in our country. 

For those in our community who need resources to help you heal, Penn State offers the following services for both employees and students:

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) are available at each of Penn State’s Commonwealth Campuses.
  • The Penn State Crisis Line (1-877-229-6400) is a 24/7 toll-free service staffed by licensed professionals available to all Penn Staters at University Park and Commonwealth Campuses.
  • Community member can also text the 24/7 Crisis Text Line by texting “LIONS” to 741741.
  • The Penn State Employee Assistance Program, through the EAP+Work/Life program, offers short-term counseling from licensed EAP professionals, by phone, email or in person to help employees better cope with personal, family and work issues. EAP also offers access to Personal Health Advocates, who can help navigate healthcare and insurance systems, efficiently and dependably. More information is available at

Eric J. Barron

President, Penn State

Last Updated October 29, 2020