Speaking at today’s memorial service for George Floyd, the black man whose killing at the hands and under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer has provoked days of national protests and outrage, a university president challenged every college and university in America to establish a George Floyd Memorial Scholarship in memory of Mr. Floyd.
The challenge was made by Scott Hagan, President of North Central University, a small Christian university in downtown Minneapolis. North Central University hosted the memorial service for Mr. Floyd, attended by friends, family members, and invited guests. The eulogy was delivered by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
At the beginning of the service, Dr. Hagan, the president of the university, announced that his institution was establishing a George Floyd Memorial Scholarship and he urged every college in the United States to also create a similar scholarship.
“I am now challenging every university president in the United States to establish your own George Floyd Memorial Scholarship Fund,” Dr. Hagan announced.
Hagan said that North Central University has already received about $53,000 in support of the new scholarship fund.
Hagan told the packed sanctuary, with many of those present wearing masks as protection against the deadly coronavirus, “ So people across this nation can give to the college of their choice, it is time to invest like never before in a new generation of young black Americans who are poised to take leadership of our nation, so university presidents let’s step up together.” The audience rose to its feet with cheers, amens, and applause.
The recent killings of African Americans – including Mr Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery – have led university leaders across the nation to express outrage about racial injustice and call for promises of reform. But, as I have already suggested, what is ultimately needed from higher education leaders is action that changes the policies and behavior of the institutions they lead – particularly in the area of admissions and enrollment.
Dr. Hagan’s call for university leaders to establish scholarships in the memory of Mr. Floyd will not solve higher education’s problems of unequal access for poor and minority students. It will not erase the problems and practices of privilege that exclude so many students from being able to gain a quality education. It will not end racial prejudice. But as a simple symbol of compassion and as an invitation to minority students that “this college wants you here,” Dr. Hagan said what higher education needed to hear and now must answer.