Penn State campuses, colleges host events to discuss protests, unrest

Dialogue on race, diversity and equality continuing at University campuses and colleges throughout summer  

The College of Medicine’s chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) participated in a national solidarity event Friday afternoon that was an initiative of the SNMA’s White Coats 4 Black Lives. Students invited faculty and staff to join them in kneeling for nine minutes in silent reflection of systemic racism and in support of those who are so deeply affected by it. Some knelt on the soccer field in front of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey; others participated virtually. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

As nationwide protests continue in the wake of the death of George Floyd, members of the Penn State community continue to hold and plan events to share their views on race, diversity and equality.  

Though most Penn State students are not in class for the summer, and even as social distancing continues for much of the University’s workforce, members of the University community have created a dialogue in recent days, hosting virtual gatherings and conversations among members of their respective communities.

Penn State President Eric J. Barron also has announced that University leadership is holding ongoing and critical conversations on issues of bias, hateful speech, and the responsibilities of Penn State and all universities in this time of societal change. Conversations will involve students, faculty and staff, and alumni and residents of communities that surround campuses across Pennsylvania. 

Actions include a university-wide, virtual town hall discussion, with more details forthcoming; and an upcoming broadcast, live roundtable discussion, date to be determined, featuring deans and alumni and led by Marcus Whitehurst, vice provost for Educational Equity and co-sponsored by the Penn State Alumni Association, Development and Alumni Relations, WPSU and the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity. Barron also announced the formation of a Select Penn State Presidential Commission on Racism, Bias and Community Safety, and re-engagement with the University’s Task Force on Policy and Communities of Color, among others.

Whitehurst acknowledged the pain and anguish felt by so many in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and other recent, horrific tragedies, and in the face of longstanding issues of systemic racism and unjust disparities faced by minoritized populations every day. 

“We are not immune to these issues here at home, either, with recent appalling incidents of hate involving members of our own community. Penn Staters care deeply about these issues. It is so important that we all engage in dialogue with our colleagues and classmates, and work together as a community to speak out in the strongest possible terms against hate, racism and bias wherever we see it,” Whitehurst said.

Within the past week, many Penn Staters have held their own events to voice their thoughts and concerns, and engage in dialogue. These are but a few of the events that have taken place within the past several days or are planned in the coming days and weeks: 

  • Barron participated recently in a virtual round table discussion with about 100 students, hosted by Penn State’s Paul Robeson Cultural Center.
  • Penn State Abington hosted virtual teach-in on June 9 about the protests and pursuit of racial justice, which included faculty panelists from across campus. It also hosted “Conversation on Racial Climate” on June 5, which was an open dialogue about the current racial justice movement, the death of George Floyd and surrounding issues.  
  • The College of Medicine hosted three town halls on race relations last week, including one specifically for medical students. In addition, students and faculty participated in a “White Coats for Black Lives” moment of reflect organized by members of the Penn State chapter of the Student National Medical Association.
  •   Penn State Brandywine hosted a Zoom session on June 5 to provide its students a space to be heard and supported in light of the violence and unrest occurring in the Philadelphia area. The campus held a second student-only Zoom session on June 8.  
  • The College of Information Sciences and Technology hosted a virtual town hall for staff on June 4 and one for faculty on June 5.
  • Penn State Law, the Black Law Students Association and Student Bar Association hosted “Say Their Names: A Conversation Addressing Racially Motivated Murder in America” on June 4. The college also hosted a virtual, cameras-off vigil at 8:46 a.m. on June 4. 
  •   Penn State Greater Allegheny hosted a campus dialogue and reflection town hall-style event with members of the Crossing Bridge Summit committee on June 2. The campus also sent a list of books, films and documentaries on race relations and social justice to the campus’ students, faculty and staff for consideration.  
  • On June 2, the College of Education hosted a conversation among its dean and the college’s Faculty of Color Working Group, and a June 3 conversation was hosted and moderated by the college’s Diversity and Community Enhancement Committee and counselor education faculty. 
  • The College of the Liberal Arts hosted “#COVIDWhileBlackPA: A Digital Roundtable” on June 1, a roundtable event organized by the Colored Conventions Project, Penn State’s Center for Digital Black Research and the Commonwealth Monument Project to discuss black rights, black institution building and mobilizing voting. The college’s “Democracy Works” podcast is continuing to focus on issues related to the protests.
  • The Smeal College of Business held a college-wide town hall meeting on June 1 via Zoom, which was devoted entirely to the topic of diversity in the wake of George Floyd’s death.  
  • Penn State Berks faculty members who developed the SOC 205N: Critical Race Theory in the Humanities and Social Sciences course three years ago invited past students to discuss the recent events. Approximately 25 students joined a Zoom-based discussion, which lasted three hours.
  •   At Penn State Lehigh Valley, the topic of race relations and social justice has been a focus for the past year. Campus leadership been reading related books on an ongoing basis, as well, including, “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo, a New York Times bestseller. Lehigh Valley faculty also initiated a campus-wide book club with a focus on checking for blind spots.  

As the national conversation continues, a number of colleges and campuses have events planned in the coming days, weeks and months, including:  

  • College of Education listening event — College of Education Dean Kimberly Lawless will co-lead a listening session and action-oriented collaborative planning session for collective action against racism with the deans of education from the University of Buffalo and Indiana University at 2 p.m. on June 10. 
  • “Just Mercy” — Penn State Schuylkill will host an online screening of the film “Just Mercy” at 6 p.m. on June 10 followed by a roundtable conversation with campus faculty and staff members.
  • School of International Affairs (SIA) listening event — The SIA will host a gathering at 8 p.m. on June 10 to listen and reflect that will include Penn State Law Dean Hari Osofsky, SIA Director Scott Gartner and Ambassador Dennis Jett. 
  • Campus Chat — Penn State Fayette will host a virtual discussion via Zoom at 5 p.m. on June 11 with the Fayette campus community about the current demonstrations and protests.
  • Social Justice Collaborative — The Penn State Berks Social Justice Collaborative will host an informal discussion with the Berks campus community at 10 a.m. on June 11.
  • “The Local Black Experience” — An online forum hosted by Penn State Shenango at 12:15 p.m. on June 12 with guest panelist/moderator Erin Houston, president of the Shenango Valley Urban League.  
  • “Race, Crime and Related Fires: Reflections from a Black Criminologist” — Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Behavioral Sciences and Education will host a Zoom conversation with Shaun Gabbidon, distinguished professor of criminology, will talk about race and crime at 4 p.m. on June 12. 
  • Behrend virtual town hall — Penn State Behrend will host a virtual town hall for its faculty and staff on June 17. Campus leadership also plans to host a virtual discussion with leaders of groups representing students of color in the coming weeks. 
  • “Race, Politics and the Pandemic: Mobilizing Voters for the 2020 Elections” — The College of the Liberal Arts will feature a virtual presentation by Ray Block Jr., associate professor of political science and African American studies at 12:05 p.m. on June 17.
  • Juneteenth Freedom Day — Dickinson Law will host its annual event at 4 p.m. on June 19 to commemorate the date slavery became illegal in the United States. The event will include Dickinson’s dean, diversity and inclusion trusted advisers, the Black Law Students Association and Dickinson Law Alumni Society.  
  • Schreyer Honors College virtual book reading — The Schreyer Honors College will host a virtual book reading at 9:30 a.m. on June 19 to coincide with Juneteenth. Alumna Asia Grant will read her book “Poncho the Llama,” followed by a conversation with Lynette Yarger, assistant dean of equity and inclusion for Schreyer.
  • “Just Mercy” — The Eberly College of Science will host a virtual watch event of the film “Just Mercy,” along with a college-wide discussion. 
  • “What can we do as individuals about racism” — A symposium being planned at Penn State Mont Alto slated for September. 
  • “Social Movements, Racial Justice and Anti-racist Education” — Several faculty members in the College of the Liberal Arts and the College of Education are forming the Consortium for Social Movements and Education at Penn State. Planned events include a one-day forum for students titled, “A Teaching Moment: Anti-Black Policy, Brutality and the Popular Uprisings” in August. A speaker series is also set to launch in spring 2021. 

 “While we are leading discussions at the highest levels of the university, it is so important that Penn Staters also feel empowered to engage with one another at the individual and community levels,” Whitehurst said. “We must lean on and learn from one another throughout this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.” 


For members of the Penn State community who are fearful, hurting, heart-broken or weary, please know that there are resources and people here 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

Last Updated June 15, 2020